Liverpool City Region’s new Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram unveiled his cabinet on Friday – and there wasn’t a woman in sight. He says he wants to address the issue but many people are unhappy. Tony McDonough reports
Women make up more than 50% of the UK population but remain woefully under-represented in many areas of public and political life.
Out of 650 MPs in Parliament there are currently just 191 that are women.
But even that is better than the make-up of the newly-formed Liverpool City Region Combined Authority which is 100% male.
At the top table
Headed by recently-elected Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram the cabinet includes the heads of the six local authorities – Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton – and all of those are men.
They are Liverpool’s elected Mayor Joe Anderson, Wirral Council leader Phil Davies, Halton Council leader, Rob Polhill, Sefton Council leader Ian Maher, Knowsley Council leader Andy Moorhead and Barrie Grunewald, leader of St Helens Council
A place at the table is also found for businessman Asif Hamid, chair of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, chair of Merseytravel Cllr Liam Robinson and Frank Rogers, chief executive of Merseytravel.
When YBNew’s story about the new team was published a number of people posted on social media expressing their astonishment that not a single woman would be involved in major political and economic decisions affecting the whole city region.
Fiona Gibbs, a director at Liverpool’s Baltic Creative, university lecturer and author, said on Twitter: “Big slap on the back to you boys, but can you explain the distinct lack of women in this crack team?
Alison McGovern, who is standing for re-election as the Labour MP for Wirral South, responded saying “this clearly needs sorting”.
And Laura Brown a local writer and PR consultant, also said on Twitter: “Can anyone see any women? Any at all? Anyone? A region of over 1m. No women?”
Tabitha Morton who stood as a candidate for the Women’s Equality Party in the City Region Mayoral election on May 4, said: “The Liverpool city region is missing out on the talents of 51% of our population.
“Women’s experiences are not reflected in vital decision-making as we are not at the table. You cannot be what you cannot see.
“The Labour Party does not understand the structural inequalities that throw up barriers to women entering politics. There are thousands of women across the region, running businesses and organisations, who are ready to contribute. So let’s make it happen.
“I will be working hard to ensure Steve Rotheram adopts The Women’s Equality Party’s policy on equal representation.”
Stuck with the rules
Mr Rotherham himself is acutely aware of the issue of the lack of representation of women on the Combined Authority.
Under the Government legislation that created the body the six voting members of the cabinet can only be the Metro Mayor and the six local authority council leaders, or elected mayor in the case of Joe Anderson.
However, he can co-opt others onto the authority, although such representatives do not have full voting rights.
This is applies to Mr Hamid, Mr Rogers and Cllr Robinson.
YBNews understands that attempts have been made to co-opt Barbara Spicer, chief executive of Plus Dane Housing, and Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and former MP Jane Kennedy, onto the authority but this move has so far been unsuccessful.
In a statment to YBNews, Mr Rotheram said: “The AGM on Friday was a formal meeting and not really the opportunity to look at comprehensive, radical structural change.
“That is a process that is ongoing and I remain fully committed to creating a more diverse and representative administration.
“The Combined Authority constitution requires the six regional leaders, the chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Metro Mayor to be Combined Authority members.
“I fully understand that this has led to an unacceptable gender imbalance which, despite the constitutional constraints, I am hoping to address when I announce further appointments in the near future.”