Britain’s councillors: old, white, wealthy…hard-working?

Councillors are older, working longer and are more educated than in the past, according to a new survey.

Councillors are older, working longer and are more educated than in the past, according to a new survey.

The Census of Local Authority Councillors 2013, conducted by the Local Government Association and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), reveals the makeup of Britain’s councillors.

The average age of a councillor is now over 60, up from 58 a decade ago, while just one in eight are under 45. Almost half of all councillors are retired – 47 per cent, up from 37 per cent in 2001 – with nearly a quarter aged over 70. Despite their age, however, two thirds intend to stand again when their term ends.

Meanwhile, those in full time work appear to be dropping off, with less than a fifth of councillors having full-time jobs. Instead, two thirds of councillors hold other voluntary or unpaid positions.

Most councillors are therefore essentially full-time ‘activists’; just 45 per cent are in work. They now spend an average of 25 hours a work on council business, up over two hours since 2010. ‘Labour Party members spent the most hours on average (28.5) among the main political parties,’ although much of this time is on party activities.

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Although wealth was not analysed, such shifts could suggest councillors are increasingly coming from wealthy backgrounds, corroborated by the fact that 40 per cent of those in work are in managerial or executive positions (a figure higher among Tories).

Just 15 per cent said that they would not be able to fulfil their role without the stipend, compared to 63 per cent who said they could to some or a full extent. Greens were those who required the financial help the most, with 26 per cent saying they couldn’t be a councillor were it not for the support.

And while 18 per cent reported that their employers did not support their council work at all, the figure rose to over 23 per cent for those from non-white backgrounds.

Elected council members now appear to be more educated than ever, with the proportion of councillors with no qualifications now sitting at just 5 per cent, just over a third of what it was ten years ago.

While the percentage of male councillors decreased from 71 per cent in 2001 to 67 per cent last year, 96 per cent were of white ethnic origin, a figure that has stayed relatively static over the years.

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Other interesting findings include the party defection rate, which for Liberal Democrats is 3 per cent, almost 5 per cent for former Independents and 4 per cent for those elected as UKIP – compared to just 1 per cent for Labour councillors.

90 per cent of councillors stood because they wanted to ‘serve their community’, although Green Party councillors were driven to become councillors because of their political beliefs (97.2 per cent) and a desire to change things (81.7 per cent).

Although local councillors are doing good work, it remains to be seen how we reverse the seemingly permanent situation where our local representatives are old, white and male…a bit like in all public bodies, really.

14 Responses to “Britain’s councillors: old, white, wealthy…hard-working?”

  1. swatnan

    Scrap Elections and introduce a Jury Type System for appointing new Councillors.
    It would be far more effective, getting balance in political thought age gender and race. And it would be local and more representative.

  2. jay

    While the percentage of male councillors decreased from 67 per cent in 2001 to 71 per cent last year…

    ———————-
    Where I come from we call that an increase.

  3. jay

    You really have to let go of the ”old white male” thing. Maybe it lets you feel good but it is tantamount to racism (self-hating if you are white). So tell us Josiah, in a country 87% white what percentage of councillors would you expect to be white given that most small towns and rural areas are over 90% white?

    And whose fault is it that younger people do not stand for the council? The older people or the younger people?

    And whose fault is it that more women do no stand? The men’s or the women’s?

    Try to rise above cliches and prejudices. The political apathy of the younger, of women and of non-whites may be the problem.

  4. Dave Roberts

    Well said Jay. No wait for the accusations of racism. Don’t worry, they’ll only be from Guardian readers and the loony left.

  5. Liam Fairley

    And what percentage of journalists are white and male, Josiah? Better yet, tell us what percentage are middle-class and privately educated? Journalism is probably the least inclusive, class biased profession I know of.

  6. sarntcrip

    HENCE LOCAL COUNCILS VICIOUS ATTACK ON THE SICK AND DISABLED VIA COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT SLASH AND BURN POLICY

  7. sarntcrip

    SCRAP DEMOCRACY SO EXISTING COUNCILLORS CAN APPOINT MORE OF THEIR OWN TYPE DON’T THINK SO IT’S NOT AN OLD BOYS CLUB LIKE WESTMINSTER OR IT SHOULDN’T BE

  8. sarntcrip

    TOSE FORCED TO WORK EXTREMELY LONG HOURS ARE LIKELY TO BE ON ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS WHICH MEANS A LARGE SECTOR OF SOCIETY IS EXCLUDED FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT

  9. Liam Fairley

    Yes, I’ve just been on the receiving end of the intolerant loony left. I had the sheer audacity to suggest many working people in this country are concerned about the effects of mass immigration on their community. Of course, this mean I hate all immigrants and, to quote my accuser, ‘hate the sight of black faces’. There really is no reasoning with these people.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah yes, everyone who isn’t your kind of acceptable bigot is magically lumped into PC groups, so you can point the finger and be YOUR kind of bigot.

    But well, as you’re a ex-British tax exile…what would I expect?

  11. Hiren Joshi

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  12. Guest

    No, you can’t be “reasoned” with, as you’ve chosen to be anti-British…and you say one person daring to express views other than yours a multitude magically oppressing you, showing your PC bigotry.

    You hold the views you talk about, of course, the bigotry and the hate. You’re a good Tory.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Why are you blaming councils? They’re seeing massive budget cuts. Most, literally, will not be able to offer anything outside the bare minimum of statutory services and will need to charge extensively for those.

    That’s, 100%, down to the cuts to their funding which are massive and ongoing.

  14. Guest

    Aww, are they not saying what you want them to? Not right wing enough?

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