When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, Caroline Page was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women. She says:
“We are the first and only Group in this county to have this role. Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.
So why am I spokesperson? Exactly because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow. And this has significant consequences for the women and girls of Suffolk.
29% (22) of Suffolk County Councillors are women – which is below the national average. But even nationally the picture is poor. Latest research shows:
- Only 33% of local councillors are women
- 28% of women councillors say childcare is a barrier, compared with 18% of men.
- 47% of women (almost double the % of men) experience clashes with other caring duties. Unsurprising, considering half of all women aged 59 are, or have been, unpaid carers. Men don’t achieve such odds till age 75.
- 38% of women councillors report sexist comments within their party, and one-third in council chamber
- 43% of women councillors have faced sexist assumptions about what they could do based on their gender rather than their career, qualifications or capacity.
- Yet women councillors are just as ambitious as their male counterparts: 45% of women and 47% of men say they want to progress to a more senior role in the council
This lack of recognition, representation and respect of women within local authorities, results in lack of local authority recognition and funding for issues that disproportionately affect women – whether it be outcomes for girls, or the plight of family carers or the funding of refuges and safe houses. We see examples of all these in Suffolk.
Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.
We need Spokespeople for Women to ensure that gender equality in Suffolk is a fact rather than a fiction, to make sure that the best person gets the job, that the girls in our schools are wholly supported to have same aspirations and futures as their male peers.
Alongside this we need a clear understanding of the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges, support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. And everyone, whatever their gender who believes in equality realise this as truth.
But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it? It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to those in charge – and the whole county suffers.
Sad but true.
So I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk administration realises this too.”
Suffolk County Council Liberal Democrats are happy to announce that we will be joining forces with the Suffolk County Council Green and Independent councillors for the 2017-2021 electoral term to form the SCC LibDem, Green and Independent Group.
This will allow all LibDem, Green and Independent councillors better representation on county council committees than could otherwise have been possible – which wilĺ make us much more able to hold the administration to account and to bring our constituents’ concerns to the fore.
The group will also be eligible to have the support of a group researcher.
We will however continue to retain our individual party identities within the group.
On Saturday 4 March Suffolk’s very own Baroness Ros Scott joined Lib Dem party chair Baroness Sal Brinton to launch the Suffolk Lib Dem party manifesto for the elections in May.
We have now had had a decade of conservative cuts letting local people down. Since 2005 the Conservatives have run the County Council, consistently reducing services, rather than looking after the real needs of local people. Suffolk Liberal Democrats believe there is a better way and we need urgent action in some important areas.
Suffolk Lib Dems’ SIX priorities for local people
- Provide a £5m boost to adult social care
- Invest in the infrastructure to support new housing – roads, schools and doctor’s surgeries
- Fund a county-wide mental health programme in schools
- Fix our roads and pavements
- Invest in local bus services and make park and ride buses more frequent
- Protect our libraries
And there’s more. Read our full manifesto here
And here is the EADT’s angle on it
Yesterday saw the setting of the County Budget for 2017-18. With an election in May this was always a day when we would emphasise the difference between the parties and it did not disappoint. The was lots of Conservative emphasis on keeping spend down and how they have amassed large reserves over the past seven years. Labour wanted to spend to preserve services and give the residents of Suffolk what they need. We felt the Conservatives were cutting too hard but Labour were spending at the top limit of what would be possible.
My approach -on behalf of the LibDeb group- is below, seeking to use the resources available but not take unreasonable risks. In the end the administration carried the day and a further £30 million will be cut from services.
John Field: Deputy Leader of Suffolk Lib Dem Group & County Councillor for Gipping Valley