London councils ‘still not reflecting communities they serve’

Wandsworth Council leader, Conservative councillor Ravi Govindia (Photo credit: JOE JACKSON/AFP)

ETHNIC MINORITIES remain under-represented in London politics as new research on Monday (11) revealed only 26 per cent of councillors are black or Asian.

The research, Ethnicity, gender and party in London’s local government, found that the capital’s white population is over-represented in council chambers by more than 15 per cent.

Although research found that London’s Asian population is now represented proportionately
compared to their population size, black Londoners remain under‐represented.

The proportion of councillors from an ethnic background varied, with figures showing it was
at 3.3 per cent in Bromley while being 63.3 per cent in Newham.

However, the report acknowledged this could be down to demographics of each borough.

The highest proportion of black councillors in one borough is 25 per cent in Barking and
Dagenham, followed by Brent and Newham.

Hounslow is the most representative for Asian councillors while Merton is the least.

The report also noted that in 21 out of the 32 boroughs within London, the number of Asian
councillors is higher than the number of black councillors. In two cases – Hounslow and Tower Hamlets – Asian councillors make up more than half of the elected body of representatives.

Beinazir Lasharie is a councillor for Kensington and Chelsea

Reena Ranger, who was elected five years ago as a councillor at Three Rivers District Council and stands for re-election in May, told Eastern Eye it is a “privilege to be a part of the processes that shape and govern our community for our generation and the next”.

There are many successfully elected councillors from a variety of backgrounds, she said, and one hopes that their journeys and motivations will resonate with people and provide that inspiration and a blueprint for doing the same.

“Sitting councillors should highlight the personal, communal and societal benefits of encouraging a diverse range of applicants and encourage those around them to see the value that public service can bring to communities, the world around you and also the enrichment it can bring to ones own life,” she said.

Ameet Jogia, a councillor for Harrow council, agreed with Ranger. He told Eastern Eye the role “goes beyond all communities”, so would be interested to find out why disparities continue to exist.

“As existing councillors, it is our duty to help raise awareness of this role and how to apply,” he said. “This will help remove perceived barriers in standing for council and encourage others to come forward.”

Research has found that London’s Asian population is now represented proportionately compared to their population size

The study, from Queen Mary University of London, also highlighted disparities between the
main political parties. While 90 per cent of Tory councillors are white, the Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors stand at 87 and 61 per cent, respectively. According to the data, there were only four black Conservative councillors in London in 2018.

In terms of gender representation, the statistics showed that 58.9 per cent of London councillors elected in 2018 were male.

Among those elected, Asian men were over-represented by 2.2 per cent. In comparison,
Asian women were under-represented by 2.2 per cent.

Black women were the only group to see better representation than their male counterparts.

However, the report said there had been a “clear advance” in black and Asian representation across London since the early 1990s. For instance, in 1993, the representation of BAME councillors was at just 9.4 per cent.

This number rose to 15.7 per cent in 2013.

Mercy Muroki, researcher at Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute said the under-representation of minorities in local government matters because it is “important pathway” to national office.

“If we want to see a more representative parliament, we need to see more representative local government,” Muroki stressed.

Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations agreed that there was an issue with under representation of ethnic groups.

“London’s local government has a real problem with the representation of three particular
groups – Asian women, black women and black men,” he said.