Why You Get More Than Just a Degree When You Study at INLOGOV

Yulei Lei graduated from INLOGOV last year and reflects on the time she had with us…

As I was finishing my undergraduate studies at my university in China, I decided I wanted to go on to further study. My undergraduate was in accounting, but I decided I wanted to study a topic that would broaden my areas of expertise and that I wanted to come to the UK. Then the most exciting thing happened – I received an unconditional offer to study an MSc in Public Management (taught) at the University of Birmingham.

Like that, in September of 2016, I started studying at INLOGOV at the University of Birmingham. I remember the 22nd was the first day I came to INLOGOV. I still remember how excited I was. That day I met all my classmates who were coming from so many different countries. And the lecturers introduced us to many things which were relevant to my time on the Masters; for example, the modules, the career events, and many other activities on campus. As an international student, my favorite part was the BIA English class and Lunch Time English, which were a complimentary offer from the University to support international students in order to improve their English. It was very interesting and useful.

The modules I took at INLOGOV were divided into two different parts: compulsory core modules, which were Public Management, Performance Management, Strategic Management and a dissertation; and three optional modules – I chose Leadership in Public Services, Regulation and Finance, and Community and Local Governance. I enjoyed all these modules to the point that I could not say which one was best, because all of the modules had a fabulous professional lecturer who would not let the course become boring or tedious. My favorite part of class was group discussion. In this part, you were able to express your thoughts and discuss them with your classmates and lecturer, and they always helped me clear my mind and put forward my ideas. This was very helpful to me because I did not have much experience with practical examples, as opposed to the professors and many of my classmates, who had abundant experience from their jobs. Also, the teaching staff in INLOGOV were very friendly and helpful, they are very open to answering your questions and give you a hand on your assignments. It can figuratively be said that it was as if one were ‘standing upon the shoulders of Giants’ (Isaac Newton).

Group class photo.jpeg

Studying at INLOGOV, what I got was not only a degree, but also many friends from many different countries. We discussed the differences concerning the social situation in our own countries and shared ideas on how to improve things in public management. Then we summarized the good experiences to be used in our own projects. This is a good way to understand optimum outcomes. The module leaders and students can show you different ways of thinking and stimulate your brain to search for and discover many good ways to improve your skills in public services and management. INLOGOV is a department which brings many different cultures together to learn from one and other. Through our group, we exchanged thoughts, expressed ideas and completed projects successfully.

Besides studying, I also took part in some activities with the Student Guild of the University of Birmingham, I met new friends there and learnt new skills, for example how to grow a shrub and how to cut down a tree for gardening management. Moreover, I do love the new 360 sports centre which is the place I also often went to in my spare time. The facilities are new and it has a fabulous swimming pool.

All in all, my year of masters study at the University of Birmingham was very joyful. I met very professional staff and made lovely friends. I acquired lots of new knowledge and learnt lots of skills. I will miss all the things from when I was at INLOGOV, in the University of Birmingham, and in the UK for my Masters journey. Also, I hope I can use what I learnt from INLOGOV in my future career. If possible, I wish to take what I have learnt and apply it in my own country to help to improve the performance management systems in different organizations, not only in the public sector.

Yulei Lei graduation photo (2)Yulei Lei graduated from INLOGOV in December 2017 with an MSc in Public Management. She is from South West China.

Find out more about our postgraduate programmes here.

Children’s Services Spending: Where has the axe fallen?

Calum Webb (University of Sheffield) and Paul Bywaters (Huddersfield University)

Children’s and Young Peoples’ Services, encapsulating children’s centres, safeguarding and social work, family support, services associated with looked after children, often totals nearly £10 billion of spending annually. Despite this, limited attention is paid to how these funds are spent, and much less is known about how such spending has changed over time. Has spending increased or decreased under austerity? Have budgets for front-line services for some of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of society – children at risk of abuse and neglect – been protected, as is often claimed, or axed, in the face of the rising strain placed on local government finances? Where cuts have been made to cope with reduced budgets, where have they fallen? Have cuts to children’s services been greater in more deprived local authorities, as previous research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has indicated, further disadvantaging children from poorer communities and with greater needs?

The contradictory findings from government departments does not inspire confidence in their ability to answer any of these questions convincingly. A 2016 report from the National Audit Office concluded that expenditure on children’s services had risen by approximately 12 per cent between 2012 and 2015. This report, however, only looks at a sum of between £1.6 billion and £1.8 billion, and we had no luck replicating this figure – not with any combination of categories or adjustments for inflation.

A more recent report published by the Department for Education came to fundamentally different conclusions, namely that total expenditure had fallen by 9 per cent between 2010 and 2016, and that between 2012 and 2015, the same period covered by the NAO report, spending had reduced from £9.2 billion to £8.9 billion, a 3 per cent reduction.

The problem is partly down to the quality of the data – the inconsistency of categories between years prevents any meaningful long term comparisons of very specific spending areas. A few of the broader spending categories are fairly stable over time, namely spending on looked after children and spending on safeguarding, and the remainder of categories can loosely be considered ‘preventative’ or ‘early intervention’ services. These are the Sure Start centres or family support services that are intended to address the difficulties children in need may face before these problems develop to the point that they require more drastic interventions.

The second major problem with the official reports is the tendency to only focus on changes in the total national levels of expenditure, rather than focusing on what has been happening on a local authority level. All it takes is a few of the larger local authorities, the ‘big spenders’, to see an increase to dwarf many negative trends in smaller local authorities. This approach therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality for children across England.

When we looked at expenditure after taking these things into account we found very clear patterns. The most deprived 20 per cent of local authorities had seen reductions in spending of 25 per cent, whereas the least deprived 20 per cent have had cuts of 4 or 5 per cent. When we split local authorities into three equally sized groups of 50 (the City of London and Isles of Scilly LAs are excluded as outliers), based on their deprivation scores, we found significant differences in the expenditure trends: rapid rundowns of expenditure per child in the 50 most deprived local authorities, less extreme cuts for the 50 ‘middle’ deprived local authorities, and far less severe cuts for the 50 least deprived local authorities. This is in part due to the indiscriminate way in which austerity measures have been introduced, without attention to the fact that more deprived local authorities typically have higher spending per child to meet greater levels of more complex needs. This means a hypothetical 10 per cent cut in Middlesbrough is going to result in a much bigger loss of £-per-child than a 10 per cent cut in Wokingham.

What’s more is that the share of spending across the different services has changed substantially, mirroring patterns in social work practice more broadly. The share of spending has shifted away from the aforementioned preventative and support services in favour of maintaining the share of safeguarding spending and increasing the share of looked after children spending. On average, local authorities spent around 46 per cent of their children’s services budget on more prevention focused services in 2010-11. By 2014-15 this had fallen to only 33.5 per cent. This has been fairly universal across all local authorities, but slightly more extreme in the most deprived third, and is best seen visually.

CW graph for blog feb

We don’t know completely what impact this will have on the lives of children, but we do know that since 2010 there has been evidence of an increase in demand for children’s social services; with average Looked After Children rates increasing from 57.5 children per 10,000 in 2010-11 to 62 children per 10,000 in 2014-15, and the number of children in the population rising by approximately 750,000 since 2010. Furthermore, this population increase has been largely concentrated in the most deprived local authorities (12%) compared to the least deprived local authorities (4%), meaning stable intervention rates – such as rates of children in care – actually represent a substantial increase in workload for practitioners. This is just one part of a complex picture of disadvantage that children living in poverty face. What we do know is that there needs to be a clear commitment to improving the quality and detail of the data that is collected about expenditure and deprivation because, as Ofsted’s Annual Report has acknowledged, there is a link between this and the quality of the services children receive across the country.

The research presented here was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and is part of the Child Welfare Inequalities Project and will be published in Local Government Studies in February 2018. Evidence from the project is being presented to an APPG for Children on the 7th February 2018.

Calum WebbCalum Webb is an ESRC White Rose postgraduate research student at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Sociological Studies. He has recently contributed to the ESRC funded research project ‘Developing a Policy Learning Tool for Anti-Poverty Policy Design and Assessment’ and the Nuffield Foundation funded ‘Child Welfare Inequalities Project’. His PhD research investigates approaches to the longitudinal measurement of multidimensional poverty. Calum tweets using @cjrwebb

Paul BywatersPaul Bywaters is Professor of Social Work at Huddersfield University working in the Centre for Applied Childhood, Youth and Family Research. He has led a series of research projects funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which have examined inequalities in the incidence of and responses to child abuse and neglect between and within the four UK countries. For more information can be found here. Paul tweets using @PaulBywaters

 

 

The colour (and gender) of power

Chris Game

As a blogger, I see myself as a kind of Middlesbrough in the Premier League: beigey. Not significant enough to attract the serious detestation of a Chelsea or Man United, but nor with the widespread likeability of a Bournemouth or Burnley. It means any feedback I receive is rarely obscene and generally supportive or constructive – an example being my recent blog on the West Midlands Combined Authority, whose initials, I’d suggested, could stand for “the (almost) Wholly Male Combined Authority”.

A respondent from Localise WM, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes local trading, tweeted that the initials “could alternatively stand for White and Male Combined Authority”.  And they were quite right. The figures are identical: one woman member and one (different) BAME member on the currently 33-member WMCA Board.

I had two main reasons for omitting any discussion in that blog of the minority ethnic dimension. First, space. I wanted to record not just the statistics of women’s under-representation in the elected Combined Authority world, but the efforts to improve that representation in, for example, Greater Manchester and Liverpool, prompted by local women’s campaign groups.

The second reason was that I was aware of a project on the point of publication that would almost certainly furnish the data to enable a more informed and better illustrated discussion. Not, as it happens, this week’s delayed launch of the Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit, intended to monitor how public services discriminatorily treat people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. I had in mind the Guardian newspaper’s international Inequality Project, a small but important part of which is ‘The Colour of Power’ (CoP) study undertaken by Operation Black Vote and the business management company, Green Park.

The CoP website suggests that “when we embarked on this journey, we did not know exactly what we would find”. Commendably open-minded, but my guess is they actually had a VERY good idea of what they’d find – that “in 2017, pathways to the very top jobs for Britain’s black and minority ethnic communities are almost non-existent” – and wanted to use an obvious but still highly effective means of quantifying and publicising it. The actual figures they recorded were that “for over 1,000 of the most senior posts in the UK, only 3.4% of occupants are BAME [30 men, 7 women], and less than 24% women”.

Shocking as such statistics ought to seem on their own, pictures are harder to ignore or refute – one reason why the row over the BBC presenters’ gender pay gap took off so instantly: we knew what most of them looked like. And it was why, following the similar 2016 #Oscarssowhite furore, the New York Times produced its famous ‘Faces of American Power’ feature, actually picturing the faces – and genders and colours – of the ‘Power People of America’.

That’s precisely how ‘Colour of Power’ have presented their data. There are 37 sets of pictures in all, from the CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, public bodies, advertising agencies and top charities to editors of women’s lifestyle mags and Premier League football managers – a selection of which, mainly from national and local government, I’ve summarised in my table.

Colour%20of%20Power%20table.JPG

Knowing an albeit ludicrously dated authorial photograph would accompany this blog, and having recently celebrated my no-longer-titian beard’s 40th birthday, I did briefly contemplate adding a facial hair column to the table. But it turned into a version of the even older Peter Cook sketch, about it being only his lack of Latin that prevented his becoming a judge, rather than a coal miner.

It became apparent that my becoming not just a Supreme Court Judge, but a Chief Constable, Permanent Secretary, or CEO of a top bank, was effectively stymied from the outset by the beard. Easily my best chance of even proximity to power would have been, like Jeremy Corbyn, to become a party leader, with three of the eight male leaders unvictimized for their full facial hair.

I did, though, want to illustrate CoP’s method and presentation, and I chose the politician and officer leaders of the councils which, outside London, have the highest numbers and proportions of BAME residents: the 36 metropolitan boroughs, with approaching 2 million or nearly 15%. I wasn’t expecting the councils’ members and officers to reflect these figures in any statistically significant way, but I did think they might come fractionally closer than, say, unitaries. So it was fortunate I didn’t put money on it.

 

Operation Black Vote, ‘The Colour of Power’, BAME political representation, International Inequality Project, Race Disparity Unit, women local authority CEOs

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A few of the leaders were apparently camera-shy, but the contrast between the M/F balance of leaders and CEOs – here particularly, but in councils of all types – was something else I hadn’t entirely anticipated. The clear majority of women CEOs in the mets, incidentally, was the only such figure apart from the MDs of media agencies and editors of women’s fashion and lifestyle magazines – and I did briefly consider using just the middle row, or even the phalanx of five just left of centre.

Which would have been a nice positive note on which to close, but in the circumstances also a false one. For the message of the CoP exercise – the almost complete absence of BAME faces, here and throughout the local government tables – is simply an embarrassment. Yet these are the people responsible, accountable even, for many of the services producing the disparities and ‘burning injustices’ that the PM and her Disparity Unit are pledged to eradicate. Quite an ask.

gameChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

Control freakery: Understanding who really gets to take control

Steve Rolfe

When Michael Gove reiterated the Brexiteers’ mantra of ‘taking back control’ at the recent Conservative Party Conference there was a strong sense of déjà vu about the whole performance. And not just because we’ve all heard the ‘taking back control’ message over and over again in the last 18 months. The repeated rhetoric of control also has strong echoes of an earlier Conservative policy idea – the notion of a ‘Control Shift’ at the heart of Localism and the Big Society. And the parallels go further. Just as campaigners have questioned what it might mean to ‘take back control’ after Brexit and who ends up in control, so my Local Government Studies paper, ‘Divergence in Community Participation Policy: Analysing Localism and Community Empowerment Using a Theory of Change Approach’ questions the policies which ostensibly aim to give power and control to communities.

Back in the early days of the Coalition government (remember those innocent pre-EU-referendum days?), the ideas of the ‘Big Society’ and shifting control to communities through Localism were big news, even if nobody could really work out what David Cameron meant by the Big Society. A whole raft of ‘new community rights’ were created, giving communities opportunities to challenge and take over public services, buy local assets, create their own Neighbourhood Plans and even develop local housing. Alongside this, the Localism Act aimed to ‘strengthen accountability’ of public sector organisations through directly elected mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners, plus referenda on ‘excessive’ council tax increases. At the same time, the Scottish Government were using similar language to set out their Community Empowerment agenda, giving communities rights to participate in service improvement and extending rights relating to control and ownership of land and assets. Both these policy frameworks are still in place, shaping community participation across England and Scotland, albeit that anything non-Brexit gets very little media attention these days.

On the surface, Localism and Community Empowerment seem to share many common features. Both see community voices as an important tool to improve public services, and community action as a means to fill some of the gaps between such services. Moreover, the language of ‘devolving power to communities’ sounds very similar on both sides of the border. However, as I try to argue in my paper, a more detailed look at the assumptions underlying Localism and Community Empowerment suggest that the UK and Scottish Governments have quite different ideas about how communities should participate and how they should relate to public sector agencies.

Crucially, the Scottish Government’s agenda emphasises a positive-sum conception of empowerment, where communities and public sector agencies each gain power by working together collaboratively. By contrast, most of the elements within Localism operate on a zero-sum basis, focusing on taking power away from the local state to give it to communities. Clearly there are risks in both approaches. In the Scottish partnership approach local authorities may simply hang on to power and refuse to collaborate – the evidence from decades of community work in Scotland provides many examples of intransigent bureaucrats, although also many tales of productive cooperation. In England, analysis of the policy detail suggests there are more complex and subtle risks involved. Hidden beneath the rhetoric of community rights are mechanisms which turn communities into ‘market-makers’, forcing local authorities to put services out to tender and challenging limits on house-building. Hence control is not so much shifted to communities, but rather handed to the free market and private businesses.

Interestingly, however, the more recent evidence about the use of Localism’s ‘new community rights’ suggests that communities are savvier than David Cameron perhaps expected. The Community Right to Challenge (the most blatantly market-focused element) has been hardly used in the six years since it was instituted. And whilst Neighbourhood Planning has proved very popular across England, most communities are attempting to use it to exert some control over the local housing market, rather than letting it rip.

So perhaps those fans of Brexit who continue to trumpet the idea of ‘taking back control’ may need to reflect a little on who is actually gaining control as we leave the EU. The evidence from community participation policy suggests not just that the rhetoric may be concealing the intended winners in the process of shifting control, but also that such processes are often unpredictable as multiple actors attempt to impose their own notions of control.

 

Steve%20Rolfe%20pic.jpgSteve Rolfe is a Research Fellow at the University of Stirling. His research interests include community participation and empowerment, social enterprise and housing. Before entering academia, he worked in local government for 15 years in a range of community development and policy roles.

Measuring Mandates – Let’s at least use the facts

Chris Game

Maybe it was a Monday morning thing.  But when last Monday’s Times – once, to foreigners at least, the ‘newspaper of record’ – recycled for the umpteenth time the claptrap about London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, having “the third biggest personal mandate of any directly elected politician in Europe”, my 16 months’ silent tolerance ran out.

The probably familiar story was that Mayor Khan, not being an ‘ordinary’ Labour Party member, had been barred from addressing ‘the people’s conference’. But then, presumably because he’s one of the relatively few Labour people who do actually run something – like Greater London – and decide stuff – like the fate of Uber – he was unbarred.

Unlike Mayor Andy Burnham, who also runs something – Greater Manchester – but who actually challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership, and has a willy – sorry, personal mandate – smaller than Corbyn’s, barely a quarter the size of Khan’s, and was easily side-lined to fringe meetings.

Because that’s what most of these things are fundamentally about in the male-dominated world of politics: if you’re a union leader, the size of your membership; if an MP, the size of your majority; if a council leader, the size of your electorate; and if a directly elected leader, the size of your mandate – all willy substitutes. Which is why it’s important to get the measurements right – unlike The Times, which, like at least some of our students, apparently uses Wikipedia as its bible of factual information.

The pity is that Sadiq Khan’s genuine statistical achievements are impressive enough not to need exaggerating. Largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history. First elected Muslim mayor of any major western capital.

To me, it was the precision of the Wiki/Times factoid that made it immediately suspicious – ‘third biggest’ personal mandate, of any directly elected European politician? It never even sounded right. After all, Europe’s a biggish place. Nearly 50 countries, even excluding the Vatican. At least 30 with populations over 3 million, where a personal vote bigger than Khan’s 1.3 million is at least conceivable.

It seemed a bit like assuming Andy Street, because he’s elected mayor of the largest mayoral Combined Authority, has the biggest personal mandate of any political figure outside London – instead of, as shown in my table, only the second biggest in the West Midlands.

Politicians%27%20personal%20mandates%202.JPG

Anyway, back to the Khan claim, and a couple of early concessions. Let’s accept President Erdoğan’s Turkey, with the great majority of its population in Asia, and despite most holiday insurance classifications allowing it as European, counts as either Asia or Middle East. And Russia, though over three-quarters of its population live in Europe, as technically Eurasian. Otherwise, President Putin’s nearly 47 million votes in 2012 would present quite a hurdle.

But Ukraine, as every pub quizzer knows, is the largest country entirely in Europe.  Maybe not your established, Scandinavian-model democracy, but it is a kind of French-style semi-presidential republic, with a multi-party system. And its 2014 post-revolution presidential election – though excluding the annexed Crimea and certain other areas – was accepted by scrutineers both for its (broadly) democratic conduct and outcome: President Poroshenko’s decisive first-round victory.

France itself is one of Wiki’s top two, Emmanuel Macron comfortably topping 20 million personal votes in the second round of this May’s presidential elections. The other Wiki nominee, though, is Portugal’s President Rebelo de Sousa, which would be fine, were he not the only other nominee.

Like France, Portugal is one of the semi-presidential systems that constitute almost the governmental norm in modern-day Europe. They’re all different, particularly in their division of powers between the head of government and head of state. The key questions: is the president/head of state directly or indirectly elected, and, if directly, is s/he politically significant or essentially a ceremonial figurehead?

Portugal’s President was elected in a party political election and has real powers, from dismissing governments to vetoing laws and granting pardons. Wiki is quite right, therefore, to include it – but quite wrong to suggest that President Rebelo de Sousa is, apart from Macron, the only European politician with a bigger personal mandate than the London Mayor’s.

Wrong, partly because it appears not to understand the huge breadth of practice found in different ‘semi-presidential’ systems, and partly because its ‘Europe’ appears to stop at the Oder-Neisse Line, the former border between the German Democratic Republic and Poland. Even then, though, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, like Ukraine, were European countries – their EU membership is a bit of a giveaway – and today, like France and Portugal, are semi-presidential republics whose Presidents are very far from symbolic.

If you’ve any doubt, just think back to the Polish bit of William and Kate’s embarrassing summer ‘Brexit tour’. Monday, they were shaking hands with President Duda at the Pres’s palace. Tuesday, he was assuring TV viewers that his Law & Justice Party’s plans to give government the power to appoint and dismiss judges were purely to increase judicial efficiency, and really nothing alarming. Wednesday, legislation was rushed through parliament allowing the government to dismiss at will any of the 83 Supreme Court judges.

Not exactly the kind of stuff a genuinely ceremonial Head of State like William’s grandma gets up to, so let’s hope the handshake was worth it when it comes to Poland’s vote on any Brexit deal – if indeed the EU Commission hasn’t by then suspended the country’s voting rights.

Apologies for the digression, but my point is simply that Presidents Duda, Iohannis, Radev and Poroshenko are no less “directly elected European politicians” than President Macron, which I reckon puts Mayor Sadiq Khan’s mandate down from 3rd to 7th in the list. Still ahead of that of any directly elected woman politician in Europe – Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė – but then she hasn’t got one to feel the need to wave.

gameChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

WMCA shouldn’t have to mean (almost) Wholly Male Combined Authority

Chris Game

Combined Authorities, elected mayors, women’s representation, Greater Manchester CA, Liverpool City Region CA, West Midlands CA, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Andy Street, Fawcett Society, Liverpool Women’s Leadership Group

Combined Authorities have had a women problem – or rather, a lack-of-women problem – pretty well from their inception, and the much recycled picture of 11 very male and pale, if not stale, Greater Manchester council leaders signing an even paler George Osborne’s first devolution deal (see below). It was re-emphasised with the 32/7 m/f imbalance of mayoral candidates and 6/0 imbalance of the victors. In the West Midlands, though, we have a mega-problem – to which this blog, about CAs’ governance arrangements, will suggest there are two dimensions: why it exists, and what isn’t being done about it.

It exists first because the WMCA is both bigger and more complex than the other mayoral CAs. In addition to Mayor Andy Street, it comprises seven constituent members – the metropolitan boroughs, whose leaders are the Mayor’s ‘Portfolio holders’ or cabinet – plus 13 non-constituent members: three Local Enterprise Partnerships and 10 of the councils they cover.

All are represented on the CA Board, constituent councils by two elected members each (rather than other CAs’ one), non-constituent bodies by one each. Adding several accredited Observers and a Co-optee makes 33 – three or more times the size of other mayoral CAs. Finally, and with potential representational significance, all members have a nominated Substitute Member to attend and act, if required.

Of the WMCA’s 33 members, all but one are men, the single, albeit distinguished, exception being Councillor Izzy Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, a non-constituent member. The other CAs are smaller, but their gender disproportionality similar. None have more than one woman board member, the overall split being 71-3 or 4% women – a situation, moreover, that was both predictable and predicted.

In March, the Fawcett Society published an ‘Evidence Document’ on Women in Greater Manchester in conjunction with the local women’s campaign group, DivaManc. It concluded by asking all candidates to respond to five fairly demanding “Mayoral Pledges and Calls to Action”, headed by “Gender-balanced leadership and representation across Greater Manchester”.

All candidates duly signed, including odds-on favourite, Labour’s Andy Burnham. The Fawcett document then outlined the hurdles involved in the “gender-balanced representation” pledge, and the likelihood that, whatever the election result, “only one of 11 GMCA members will be a woman”. For the ten constituent councils had already chosen their leader/elected mayor as their single permitted GMCA member, and only one at the time was a woman – Jean Stretton, Labour leader of Oldham Council, whose own cabinet, probably not by chance, is gender-balanced.

Signing the Fawcett pledge, therefore, would commit the new Mayor to:

 

  • Call for the Government to amend this policy, requiring each constituent council’s CA representation to comprise a man and a woman.
  • If that failed, request that 50% of the councils nominate a senior woman councillor to attend in place of the leader/mayor; or ensure that all substitute members are women, that they attend on an equal rota, and have substantial roles and responsibilities.
  • If a man, appointing a woman as Deputy Mayor.

 

The day following his election, new Mayor Andy Burnham demonstrated his commitment to the pledge by appointing two deputies, one being Baroness Beverley Hughes – former Leader of Trafford Council, Labour MP and Minister – as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, making 11 cabinet portfolio holders, including two women. Hughes is the only salaried deputy, her appointment enabled by the previous portfolio holder (as GM Police & Crime Commissioner) being interim mayor Tony Lloyd – whose own multi-ethnic selection of six men and 14 women deputies had, even if temporarily, presented a strikingly un-stale-pale-male picture.

 

GreaterManchesterCA

Unable to replicate that picture, Mayor Burnham has nevertheless demonstrated that constitutions are there to be reconstituted. An amended GMCA constitution now requires appointed portfolio holders to nominate assistant leads of a different gender to ensure balanced representation in meetings and decision-making. Committees, panels and boards that advise the Mayor will also be gender-balanced wherever possible.

Down the M62, though, Liverpool City Region CA Mayor, Steve Rotheram, was finding life tougher, his seven-member, all-male cabinet, plus three male co-optees, prompting considerable local protest.  He had “attempted to bring two women into his cabinet, but was blocked by other members”.  One – Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy – has since become a non-voting co-optee, and six of his seven specialist Mayoral Advisors are women. Liverpool City Council Mayor Joe Anderson has also nominated Councillor and former Merseyside Police Commissioner Ann O’Byrne to represent him on the LCR cabinet, making her the only woman with voting rights.

Liverpool Women’s Leadership Group, though, are unappeased.  In a recent open letter referring to Greater Manchester’s example, they are “appalled that the LCR cabinet is made up entirely of men”, and call on all cabinet members with voting rights “to redress the enduring gender imbalance by nominating a woman from your cabinet to take your place”.

And so back to the West Midlands, where new Mayor Andy Street appears to acknowledge the WMCA’s socio-economic unrepresentativeness – an issue that was “referenced many times on the campaign trail [and] would need addressing in the weeks and months ahead”. It wasn’t, however, mentioned in his 48-page, nearly 250-pledge manifesto, and the emphasis now was clearly on months, not weeks. Rather than follow the Fawcett/Burnham route, his single Deputy is fellow Conservative, Solihull Council leader, and former CA Chairman Bob Sleigh.

Over the now months, there have been several impressive appointments of women as WMCA Chief Executive and senior officers. Also an announced WM Leadership Commission, chaired by Anita Bhalla, OBE, “to improve opportunities for communities and groups currently under-represented in the leadership of the West Midlands.” No specific reference to women, though, or their Board representation, let alone to doing anything or amending the WMCA Constitution.

In conclusion: I fully recognise that some, women undoubtedly included, will argue that women’s inclusion and representation by themselves say little about either the significance of any posts to which they’re appointed, or women’s status in the political system – and of course they’re right. My simpler point is that exclusion and non-representation DO say something – something rather important.

 

Chris Game - picChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.