Suffrage pioneers - Group Leader's Comment - 22 December 2017

I’d like to begin this last bulletin for the year by wishing you and your families a safe and happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I hope you all get the chance to take a well-earned break.

The proportion of women in local government has flat lined at a third, in contrast to improvements made in Parliament and elsewhere. A report by the Fawcett Society (which I have previously written about) describes the issue and the resulting loss of talent. A round table on Monday this week with Marcus Jones, Undersecretary of State for Local Government, has prompted some joint actions which apply equally well to evening up all the other inequalities.

I made the point that an adversarial political sphere was seen by some as unattractive and might even be seen as giving licence to bad behaviour generally if we are not careful. Better to focus on an inclusive approach to finding the truth of a situation and getting the best solutions for our residents. Being a councillor should be a very desirable job, part time but requiring high skills. If you can and would like to hold a "Be a councillor event" to attract more candidates, please let us know and we will be keen to support you.

Meanwhile, our group has been supporting the Women's Local Government Society in its quest to raise the profile of the contribution by suffragettes, connected to today's councillors and encourage voting. Let me know if you would like to take part.

The Women’s Local Government Society is working on an initiative supported by the LGA to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918. As outlined in a letter to council leaders and chief executives from Lord Porter earlier this year, we are inviting councils to nominate a suffrage pioneer from their local authority area and to use their legacy to engage a new generation of activists and representatives.

We hope to publish the list of those who have been nominated on the date the RPA1918 passed, 6 February. As this has been an exceptionally busy year, we have extended the deadline for nominations into the New Year, but in time for 6 February’s announcement.

At this stage, all we need is the name of your local suffrage pioneer and some information about them either by:

There will be three stages to the project:

  1. Nominations of the pioneers from across the country, with a list published on 6 February 2018
  2. Local projects during 2018, hopefully led by councils working with schools, colleges, local history groups, civic societies, youth organisations, women’s organisations including the WI, faith communities etc, to enable people in the area to find out more about the pioneers and to inspire a new generation of civic activists including council candidates from under-represented groups
  3. A local commemoration whether the unveiling of a plaque, the planting of a tree or rose garden or a motion to council in November 2018.

The project’s legacy hopefully will be seen in more nominations from women and other under-represented groups at the next local elections, the holding of school mock elections and the establishment of youth councils or similar, new volunteers for local organisations in subsequent years and similar.

Just as suffrage pioneers went on to play other roles in civic life having succeeded in campaigning for the extension of the franchise, we hope this project will engage more people in civic and community life in your area.

We very much hope that councils will use this opportunity to mark suffrage pioneers. Find out more by following @suffragepioneer and at