Labour and Lib Dems clash over senior female councillors

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have locked horns over promoting female councillors to senior roles.

By Lucy Ashton
Monday, 20 May, 2019, 11:59
Coun Penny Baker is the only female councillor in the Lib Dems' shadow cabinet

Labour has taken a swipe at the Liberal Democrats for having nine men and just one woman in its shadow cabinet.

But the Lib Dems have hit back saying female councillors were approached about cabinet positions but had to decline due to personal circumstances.

The Lib Dems have six female councillors out of a total of 26, including Victoria Bowden and Barbara Masters who were elected three weeks ago.

One of their previous Cabinet members, Coun Gail Smith, had to step down as she is now Deputy Lord Mayor and the rules say she can’t do both jobs.

Coun Penny Baker is the only senior female as Lib Dem Deputy Leader and cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure.

Labour, which has a cabinet of five men and five women with a female Leader and Deputy Leader, took the opportunity to criticise the Lib Dems.

Deputy Leader Olivia Blake said: “I think that most people in Sheffield will find it appalling that out of their team of 10 shadow cabinet members, the Lib Dems only have space for one woman.

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“The message this sends out is shocking and makes it clear that in Sheffield the Liberal Democrats believe women should be seen and not heard.

“How can you be representative with one women and nine men? It leaves their commitment to equality in tatters.

“The Leader of the Liberal Democrats needs to explain to women in Sheffield why he thinks that out of his team of 10 there is only room for one woman. I think the Lib Dems need to urgently reconsider their approach.”

Each party chooses its cabinet in a different way. Labour’s cabinet is chosen by its Leader, in this case Julie Dore, but it’s a group decision in the Lib Dems.

Lib Dem Leader Shaffaq Mohammed said: “I have encouraged women to put themselves forward. Some of the female councillors were approached but due to personal circumstances and caring responsibilities they felt they could not devote the time to be a cabinet member as well as a ward councillor.

“This is Labour trying to deflect from their own internal difficulties. Labour removed Coun Jayne Dunn from its cabinet and 14 Labour councillors voted against Coun Julie Dore in a leadership contest.

“They are down four seats following on from the local elections and this is just trying to divert attention from their own issues.”