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BAME Londoners remain under-represented in local government

REPRESENTATION: The proportion of black and Asian councillors ranged from 3.3 per cent in Bromley to 63.3 per cent in Newham

A NEW study from Queen Mary University of London has shown that London’s black population remains under-represented in local government in London.

The research, published in Political Quarterly, also found that, overall, London’s Asian population is now represented proportionately.

The research finds a clear advance in black and Asian representation across London since the 1990s; after the 2018 elections, 26 per cent of London councillors are black or Asian.

Compared to the broader population, however, this means that London’s White populations is over-represented in council chambers by more than 15 percentage points, Asian councillors are now present in roughly the same proportions as in the city’s population as a whole, while black council representation remains at almost six percentage points below the wider population.

Ethnic representation varies enormously between the different London boroughs with large disparities between black and Asian representation. The proportion of black and Asian councillors ranged from 3.3 per cent in Bromley to 63.3 per cent in Newham.

While much of this can be explained by the different demographics of the boroughs, some council chambers are much less representative than others: Asians were underrepresented in 20 councils and black Londoners in 28, out of a total of 32 in total in London.

The research also found important differences in the gender representation of different groups. white and Asian men were over-represented in London councils by 15.2 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively, while white women were represented proportionally.

Black men were the least represented group (at -3.3 percentage points) while black women and Asian women are also under-represented (by -2.3 and -2.2 respectively) black women were the only group to see better representation than their male counterparts.

Speaking on the study, Mercy Muroki, Researcher at Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute said: “The under-representation of groups in local government matters both in its own right and because local government is an important pathway to national office. If we want to see a more representative parliament, we need to see more representative local government.”

Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations added: “Lots of research looks at gender and ethnicity separately, but this shows how important it is to look at the two together.

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

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