COUNCILLORS in the Vale of Glamorgan have been urged to claim financial expenses in a drive to boost diversity of local politicians.
Vale of Glamorgan council wants to improve the diversity of councillors elected at the next local election in May next year.
As well as making a ‘diversity declaration’, the council will consider changing times of public meetings and discussing with political parties on setting demographic quotas for candidates.
But the council leader said one aspect that could help is encouraging councillors to claim expenses, during a cabinet meeting on Monday, July 19.
Council leader Neil Moore said: “If you’re doing the job, you should be claiming what you’re entitled to. If you are on a low wage or low income, then you shouldn’t have any problems and not feel it not right to claim what is rightfully yours.”
Another idea proposed is “resettlement grants” for councillors who get voted out and lose their seats, akin to a redundancy payment. The council also said it would “demonstrate an open, welcoming culture”.
Across Wales, councillors are typically older, whiter and male. According to the Welsh Local Government Association, only 28 per cent of councillors are women, while 47 per cent of councillors are aged over 60. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people make up 1.8 per cent of councillors, compared to 4.7 per cent of people in Wales.
Councillor Kathryn McCaffer, cabinet member for leisure, arts and culture, said: “Everyone in our community should be able to feel like they can stand to represent the people that they live among. We all know there is a stereotype of what a councillor looks like, and it’s high time we changed what that stereotype is. This is a really positive step forward.”
Deputy leader Lis Burnett raised as an example of diversity how Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore, was previously a cabinet member on the Vale council at a young age.
She said: “I think back not that long to a bit of a loss to this council, the then-cabinet member for children’s services was 25 years old when he took on that cabinet portfolio. And he did a stunning job. We have to recognise the skills of everyone and make sure there are no barriers for people to be able to stand up and represent their communities.”
After the meeting, Cllr Moore added: “Vale of Glamorgan council is committed to diversity. In practical terms this means bringing into decision-making people with a wider range of life experiences.
“More diverse and inclusive local democracy can only be a good thing for residents of Vale, more of whom we hope will in future see themselves represented in the council chamber. I am proud to be taking this declaration to next week’s meeting of the full council and even more so that I am confident that it will receive cross-party support.”
The idea to encourage councillors to claim financial expenses was suggested by the Welsh Local Government Association, who in a report said some councillors last year chose to forgo their salary increases. The group also said “resettlement grants” could boost diversity.
The report said: “The cost of politics and councillors’ remuneration is a controversial matter and is subject to significant media and public scrutiny and political pressure.
“There are concerns this is partly to do with austerity, public and media perception but anecdotally, it is clear there is also local peer or political group pressure or organisational cultural norms.”