Criticism over lack of female councillors on new unitary committee for West Northamptonshire

The West Northamptonshire joint committee met for the first time at The Guildhall last week
The West Northamptonshire joint committee met for the first time at The Guildhall last week

A councillor sitting on a new committee that is kickstarting the unitary authority proposals for Northamptonshire has slammed the number of female councillors being involved in the process.

Councillor Danielle Stone is one of just two female councillors on the 16-member West Northamptonshire joint committee.

The committee - which met for the first time last Tuesday (March 26) - features four councillors each from Daventry District Council, Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council and South Northamptonshire Council.

It is the first formal public group in the chain of setting up the new unitary authority that is likely to replace the county and district/borough councils next April.

But Councillor Stone has said that the number of women councillors on the new committee is ‘outrageous’. Councillor Stone, who is representing Northampton Borough Council on the committee, has only one female colleague - Councillor Rebecca Breese from South Northamptonshire Council.

Councillor Stone, who leads the Labour group at NBC but is also a county councillor, said: “I think it’s very concerning. In my Labour group we have a fairly balanced makeup, and my deputy is a woman and half the shadow cabinet are women. If we can do it why can’t everyone do it?

“I think they will be missing out on direct first-hand experience of working, as more women are workers at the council and women are more likely to be a recipient of council services. And yet we are going to be ruled by a group of men.”

Around the West Northamptonshire area, roughly a third of the overall councillors are female. 14 of 45 (31.11 per cent) councillors at Northampton Borough Council are female, while the levels at Daventry and South Northamptonshire are 27.77 per cent and 38.09 per cent respectively.

The figure for the county council overall, including councillors from the north of the county, stands at 35.08 per cent.

But just 12.5 per cent of the new joint committee for West Northamptonshire are women, and Councillor Stone wants to see that improve moving forwards.

She added: “I would expect to see more women being selected. I sent an email around that I was pleased South Northamptonshire Council has appointed a woman and Northampton Borough has as well, but that it’s still not good enough.

“I had Chris Millar [Daventry leader] come up to me and he said he agreed with me, so maybe it’s something that can be looked at further.”

The shelf life of the new joint committee is expected to be short, as it has only a few tasks to carry out before making way for a new shadow executive.

Its tasks included setting up three working task groups to look at a constitution and code of conduct; interim appointments; and members’ allowances.

Neither of the two female councillors on the joint committee were chosen to head up the task and finish groups.

The committee heard that a decision from the government on whether to agree to the unitary proposals will be determined either before April 4, when parliament breaks up for recess or after it returns on April 23.