Government launches year-long bid to redress minority gap in UK councils

The government has launched a taskforce to tackle the shortage of black and ethnic minority women councillors.

The number of black and minority ethnic women councillors has marginally increased from 0.6% in 1997 to 0.9% in 2006. This equates to about 170 councillors out of a total of 20,000. At this rate it would take more than 130 years for councils to reflect the ethnic make up of society.

The taskforce will take practical action to address this under-representation, such as provide mentoring, hold outreach events in community centres to make the role of councillors more widely known and better understood.

Women and equalities minister Harriet Harman said it was vital councils were more representative of the communities they serve and has appointed Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords, as chair of the taskforce.

Harman said: “It’s not just about people’s right to be a councillor, it’s about making local government better, making decision making better, and being more understanding of the communities that services are being provided for. You have better informed decision making if you have all members of the community represented.”

The taskforce will last 12 months and take into account of some of the recommendations of an independent report by the Councillors Commission published in December 2007 that looked at the barriers preventing people from standing for election as councillors.

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