Political spat at district council over gender balance

Stratford District Council

With the dust barely settled from this month’s district council elections the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Groups had their first political spat, over the issue of gender balance.

As councillors prepared last Wednesday’s annual council meeting, new Lib Dem leader Cllr Susan Juned criticised Cllr Tony Jefferson over his decision to represent the district on the board of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP).

Cllr Juned cited a report by the Office of National Statistics which concluded that the CWLEP is the fourth worst in the country for gender balance in its boardroom.

The Government has set an expectation that women should make up at least a third of LEP boards by 2020 in order to achieve gender parity by 2023.

Cllr Juned said: “The Coventry and Warwickshire LEP is one of the worst in the country for gender balance, yet despite this Cllr Jefferson has decided to re-appoint himself to the Board for the next four years.

“Is he really saying that his council group has no women councillors who could do the job? We will also be asking the LEP how they intend to meet the government’s target.”

Responding to Cllr Juned’s criticisms, Cllr Jefferson said: “The world has changed substantially since the Leader of the opposition was last a councillor.

“Outside bodies are no longer ‘talking shops’. The CWLEP is a body of considerable significance for us. There are very important strategic discussions which take place and important decisions are taken.

“It is entirely appropriate that the Leader of the Council is our representative on the Board. Furthermore, the articles of association say that appointments are for 3 years and I was appointed last year. I therefore have two more years to serve.

“Perhaps the Leader of the opposition needs to get a better handle on the strategic issues facing our District and the very significant implications of them.”

The issue was also raised by Cllr Juned at the annual council meeting (Wednesday), at which Cllr Jefferson reiterated his stance that it is appropriate for him to serve on the CWLEP board.