Fewer than half of the City of London Corporation’s elected representatives have signed a pledge to increase diversity in the governing body.
The Corporation’s voluntary Members’ Diversity Charter includes seven commitments to attract “a wider pool of talent” in order to “build a City built for the future”.
Some of the pledges include looking for people from diverse backgrounds to stand for election, encouraging businesses to promote greater diversity in their workforce and to consider “the gender and ethnic mix” when making appointments to committees.
However, City A.M. understands that only about 50 of the body’s 125 aldermen and councillors have formally signed up to the initiative.
It comes after the City’s leadership has been criticised for a lack of diversity in its annual selection for Lord Mayor and for being associated with a trade guild that does not allow female membership.
The Financial Times also reported this week that one openly gay candidate for Lord Mayor in 2018 was questioned about his sexuality in one hearing.
He was asked if his election would lead to Guildhall being “hijacked” by the LGBTQI community.
Tijs Broeke, City of London Corporation councillor and member of its diversity working group, said a lack of diversity was evident among all levels of politics in the UK.
“It’s no secret that in politics – and particularly local politics – [diversity] has been an issue and in all local authorities action must be taken,” he said.
“I think [the charter] is quite powerful as it is a personal and public commitment – if people have not signed they can be asked ‘why’ by the public or be held to account if they have.”
The corporation has two levels of elected representatives – 100 councillors and 25 aldermen.
The ancient Court of Aldermen is responsible for choosing the revolving Lord Mayor position, along with 110 associated trade guilds called Livery companies.
These proceedings, and all other Court of Aldermen meetings, are not open to the public or even the City’s 100 councillors.
Councillors and aldermen work together on the Court of Common Council, which meets nine times a year.
The City of London Corporation has stepped up its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in recent months. A spokesperson said it has set targets to increase BAME and female representation among councillors and aldermen.
“We aspire to enhance the diversity of candidates standing for the 2021 election to at least 30 per cent female and 15 per cent from BAME backgrounds,” they said.
“Our voluntary Diversity Charter for elected Members shows our commitment to this cause and helps drive the debate internally on diversity and inclusion.
“We recognise that there is much more to do and will be taking further steps to improve diversity across the City.”