Howard Knight, Labour's assistant local government officer, has produced a report which contains an assessment of the Labour councillors currently running most of local government. The Times, in an exclusive, reproduces sections of the report that says it has found the party's representatives include a disproportionately large number of older white men, often retired.
The Times quotes: 'Labour has nearly 11,000 councillors; but 50 per cent are over 55, and women and ethnic minorities are under-represented. Our representatives don't match the profile of party members, let alone the profile of communities we seek to represent. In some areas, we still do not field a full slate of candidates; in others, our procedures do not attract or prepare potential candidates nor provide a real choice of candidates for selection.' The Times interprets this as referring to the large areas of Britain where Labour has had power for a generation, and where cliques can dominate decision-making and patronage.
The report is addressed to council leaders and continues: 'Some initiatives will be piloted this autum in a few areas which have elections in 1998; these include new nomination and panel approval mechanisms and a training day for selected candidates.' Doncaster MBC is to be a pilot for the imposition of a list of new-style candidates; Lewisham LBC will be another. London, as a whole, is already screening candidates for next year's borough elections, with a new nomination form that seeks to obtain: 'key information about the nominee. It will identify skills and experience, and provide the opportunity to identify potential problems. It also has a requirement for the nominee to agree to the local authority releasing information about the individual if necessary.'