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The north east is failing to bolster the numbers of women active on the political scene - and evidence points to si...
The north east is failing to bolster the numbers of women active on the political scene - and evidence points to similar problems elsewhere, reports The Guardian (p17).

The article follows a joint study carried out by the Universities of Durham and Northumbria, which found few women hold key management positions at councils in the region.

Public bodies are run by middle-aged men, who are unrepresentative of the population profile of the region, according to the study, entitled 'Who Runs the North-east Now?'.

Fred Robinson, of Durham University, said: 'Democracy is at a low ebb in the north-east.'

The two universities tracked down every member of the local councils, the police authorities, NHS trusts, housing associations, and arts funders.

The study also found few members of ethnic minorities and the disabled represented at a senior level.

The Guardian says the report looked at only one region but its findings are certain to be repeated elsewhere; Yorkshire is about to commission a study of its own and the north west is expected to follow suit.

The nub is that to make a difference, an elected regional assembly, for example, would have to engage public interest and enthusiasm. And yet 'government in the north east largely denies or prevents real participation by 'ordinary people''.

Government in the English regions should be classic ground for reformers, even popular movements (the government is going to require a referendum before it allows full regionalisation). Except that, on this evidence, there aren't two sides in the democratic debate.

The very people who currently 'deny and prevent' are the ones who in the new dawn would be required to be 'engaging and enthusing', it says.

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