Bristol Women’s Commission Briefing For the internal review of Bristol City Council structures and Boundary Commission A democratic Bristol requires the participation and representation of all its citizens. Currently only 20 out of 70 councillors in Bristol are women – (28.5%) Locally elected representatives should reflect the communities they represent for reasons of: (1) justice and fairness; (2) symbolic representation. An elected body that reflects the community it represents should enhance political trust and legitimacy, and its representatives should act as role models; and (3) effective policy-making: the inclusion of a range of experiences, issues, perspectives and interests should make for better policy. There are multiple causes for the under-representation of women and other groups in politics: Bristol City Council needs to act in respect of all of these. Participation: inspiring and enabling individuals to become a Councillor BCC should: • • • • •
Provide and publicise a job description for councillors. Provide an accessible description of remuneration and expenses information, including support for carers, Advertise the available support for disabled people standing as councillors and when elected. Provide shadowing opportunities for women modelled on the Operation Black Vote activity. Establish an ‘Outreach Road-show’ about the work of BCC, including elected members, for schools, colleges, community groups and other organisations.
Political parties and groups should: • Establish a shadowing scheme for prospective candidates/candidates • Establish a mentoring scheme for prospective candidates/candidates • Publish in hard copy information on their procedures for selecting candidates. • Ensure that the requirements for candidates during election campaigns do not put unreasonable demands on those with caring responsibilities, a disability or work commitments. • Provide BCC with data regarding the social characteristics of their councillors and candidates. • Ensure that internal group positions are gender balanced
• Make a public statement detailing how they will ensure no one gender constitutes more than 40% of its councillors. • Endeavour to select candidates who live, work or have some other key connection with the area they represent. Representation: Council Structures, Practices and Culture The Council should adopt standing orders which put into practice the requirements in Article 3 of the Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life covering: Gender balancing rules: •
Membership of council committees and bodies should have no more than 40% of each gender. Political groups will be required to ensure that their nominations comply. External appointments should be gender- balanced. Where only one nominee is required the Council should seek balance across all such nominations. Bodies which advise the Council such as Mayoral Commission should have gender balance except in specific, agreed, circumstances (E.g. Women’s Commission)
Term Limits • •
No one should serve as a councillor for more than 3 consecutive terms of office (12 years) No councillor should hold the position of chair/cabinet member etc or represent the council on an external body for more than one term (4 years)
Remuneration/Costs • • •
Councillors’ allowances should be sufficient to cover lost earnings Expenses should be paid for caring responsibilities Additional costs relating to disability should be met
Work/life balance • •
Meeting Times: made compatible for those in paid work and with caring responsibilities E.g no meetings in half term week. Information should be available to all councillors in their preferred format and in good time
Culture and standards: •
The council should adopt a code of behaviour in addition to the mandatory code of conduct. This would identify how members and officers should behave in relation to each other and citizens. This Code to be enforced by those chairing meetings.
Councillors should receive an agreed level of support in their role. This to include: - support for new councillors including mentors if requested - on-going support including case work management system/ information briefings/ technology/updated information about the ward they represent and support to contact different communities - access to training including externally recognised qualifications - reasonable adjustments for disabled councillors
Electoral Environment: Re-Drawing the Boundaries • •
Wards should be represented by at least two members. (Women are more likely to stand in multi member wards) There is no such thing as ‘simple’ geographic boundaries. New geographical boundaries should take account of transport links, school catchment areas, and perceived area boundaries as well as geographical features such as rivers and railway lines. New boundaries should take into account levels of deprivation, availability of public and private transport, amount of social housing, health of the population and other indicators of social, economic and political disadvantage. i.e. of representational need to better ensure equality of representation.
Electoral Environment II: Electoral Reform Bristol Women’s Commission would welcome a review of the electoral system for local government including as one of its terms of reference gender parity. In other words, any new system must deliver at least 40% women and 40% men amongst its councillors Global studies show that proportional electoral systems (PR) are frequently associated with higher numbers of women in politics, especially when used in conjunction with sex quotas. E.g. in closed lists ‘zipping’ requires men and women to alternate down the list.