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Row as only one woman on panel
8:50am Thursday 27th September 2012 in News
SIX people have been appointed to head up a new watchdog for councillors in Worcestershire – but only one is a woman and none are from ethnic minorities.
The make-up of Worcestershire County Council ’s standards regime has sparked a furious row, with some politicians calling for the entire project to be scrapped and started afresh.
Under new Government legislation bosses at County Hall were tasked with finding six random members of the public to scrutinise any complaints made about councillors.
But the roles, which are unpaid, have attracted just one woman and the list features a completely white panel.
Councillor Richard Udall said: “Nothing against those who are on the list, but as soon as I looked at this alarm bells were ringing in my head.
“Where are the ethnic minorities? And where are the women? There’s one token female to complete the list.
“This is simply not good enough. This panel is supposed to represent people across all sections of the community.
“We need to actually wake up, go out there and find people who truly represent everyone in Worcestershire. It’s time to re-advertise the positions and start again.”
Coun Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: “It’s pathetic – a terrible job has been done.”
Under the Localism Act, six ‘independent persons’ needed to be found to be the first port of call for any complaints made against politicians.
They are to look at each complaint and act as advisoers in terms of deciding if the councillor needs to be reprimanded.
The positions were advertised and they only attracted applications from 11 people.
A report on it, which was debated during a recent full council meeting, says all six live in Worcestershire and are “independent of party politics”.
It includes David Coulson, a former police inspector, James Hipkiss, an ex-independent councillor at Wyre Forest District Council, and Catherine Mangan, who used to work in local government and is a senior fellow at the University of Birmingham.
Magistrate Raymond Needham, barrister David Warner and Fred Noble, another former independent councillor in Wyre Forest, are also there.
Coun Adrian Hardman, the county council’s leader, said: “The fact is, anybody could have put their name forward and we would have welcomed their application.
“It was advertised and we’re happy with the list. “If Labour wanted different people on it, they should have tried harder.”
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