Town Hall: Cllr Darren Rodwell faces tough questions over lack of ‘independent’ women
PUBLISHED: 08:24 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 08:24 25 February 2015
A heated discussion broke out at last night’s meeting of Barking and Dagenham Council about the appointment of two “independent persons” on the council.
Councillors questioned the lack of female representation among candidates after only two men applied for the posts – and were both successful.
Cllr Mick McCarthy asked members at Barking Town Hall: “What is wrong with our recruitment process that no women applied? Where is the gender aspect there?”
His comments came shortly after council leader, Darren Rodwell, praised the council’s first ever women’s empowerment month.
The law requires the council to appoint at least one independent person to give a response to claims made against elected members.
Two men with a strong local connection have been identified to join a third man who has already been appointed.
Fiona Taylor, head of legal and democratic services and monitoring officer, said two rounds of recruitment took place in September and the men identified were the only applicants.
She added: “Advertising for the posts went out on internal websites and every resident, male and female, had an opportunity to apply.”
But Cllr McCarthy reminded members about the council leader’s empowering women speech, adding: “Why aren’t we appealing to a wider community?
“If I was a recruitment manager I’d be asking: ‘Why has this recruitment campaign not been successful?’ I sometimes question, should you make an appointment with limited numbers or should you go back out and advertise?”
Cllr Rocky Gill added: “I’m not challenging the integrity of the two candidates because I don’t know them – they seem to have a local connection, but are we saying in a population of 180,000 we can’t find any female candidates? That’s a sorry state of affairs.”
Deputy lead and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Dominic Twomey, chipped in: “It’s unfortunate but you can’t make people apply.
“I accept we’re recruiting somebody in an important position but it’s not a job. Although the post will be paid £500 a year it is virtually voluntary because if they do the job properly it will impinge on their time.
“We might have seen more applicants if there was more remuneration but actually I think it’s very fair. Both applicants look extremely capable and I would support this report. I don’t see the same sort of worry.”
The council’s budget was also discussed at the meeting and the BAD youth forum presented its annual report.
Pick up next week’s Barking and Dagenham Post for the full report.
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