Brighton's Green councillors in victory for women at work

27 March 2009

Brighton & Hove City Council has become one of the first local authorities in the UK to sign up to the Fawcett Charter, a coalition of leading employers committed to ensuring women at work are treated equally. (1)


In signing up, the council has committed to reviewing its internal procedures to ensure they adequately address situations that may lead to women being viewed as ‘objects’ and auditing employee expenses to ensure local authority money is not being spent in lap dancing clubs.


Green Cllr Amy Kennedy, the proposer of the original notice of motion calling on the council to sign up, said:


“I’m delighted the council has taken this stand. While we already have numerous robust policies in place to ensure women employed by Brighton & Hove City Council are treated with respect, signing up to the Fawcett Charter sends a clear message across the city: sexism in the work place is not acceptable."

“I’m especially keen to see this message broadcast loud and clear during the depression. In times of rising unemployment and greater competition for jobs, women in the workplace are particularly vulnerable. All employers need to be extra vigilant that the recession does not lead to an upturn in illegal discrimination.”


The Fawcett Society is named after Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a leading light in the peaceful campaign to give women the vote and wife and secretary to Henry Fawcett, MP for Brighton from1865 to 1874. Cllr Amy Kennedy went on to welcome support for honouring Millicent Fawcett with a blue plaque. (2)


Kennedy said: “Millicent Fawcett led the way when it came to fighting peacefully for women’s rights, and played a vital role in Brighton’s fortunes while her husband was MP. A blue plaque to commemorate her memory would reflect the important part she played in the history of the city.."


The victory for one of Britain's biggest local authority Green Party groups came just days after the Green Party's spring conference at the Blackpool Winter Gardens. The party agreed a raft of new policies on women's issues, including new policy on women in business.


The shake-up of women's policy was led by party leader Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, currently the only female leader of a major British political party. Caroline Lucas is currently Green MEP for South East England and is widely tipped to become Britain's first Green Party MP in next year's general election, when she will contest the Brighton Pavillion seat.


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Notes for Editors:


You can see the full debate around the Notice of Motion requiring that the Council sign up to the Fawcett Charter at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI3WZq-ZnQE


 

(1) The Charter outlines key principles around ensuring equality in the workplace, such as promoting an inclusive work environment, and was launched last year by the Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading organisation promoting equality for women.  More details can be found at: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=752

 

The text of the Notice of Motion proposed by Cllr Amy Kennedy, which garnered support from the Labour and the Liberal Democrat groups read as follows:


“This Council notes that:

1. The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading organisation promoting equality for women. It campaigns for women’s representation in politics and public life; equal pay and pensions, and the fair treatment of women in the workplace.

2. Having begun as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1866, the Fawcett Society takes its name from Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, who made it her life’s work to lead the peaceful campaign for women’s votes.

3. Millicent Fawcett was married to Henry Fawcett, MP for Brighton from 1865 to 1874, and in 1897 she spoke to the NUWSS Conference in Brighton Town Hall.

4. Today the Fawcett Society continues to campaign for equality for women in all areas of life, and is currently calling for employers to sign up to the Fawcett Charter, which represents a coalition of firms and organisations committed to challenging the objectification of women at work.


Signatories include BT, Barclays Wealth, Matrix Chambers, and Oxfam GB.


As one of Brighton & Hove’s largest employers, with a stated commitment to equalities for all in the workplace, this Council therefore resolves to ask the Cabinet to consider:


1. Signing up to the Fawcett Charter, demonstrating:

• Support for Fawcett’s aim of challenging the objectification of women;

• A commitment to audit employee expenses to ensure local authority money is not being spent in lap dancing clubs;

• A commitment to review internal policies and procedures to ensure they adequately address potential occurrences of objectification.

2. Request that the Commemorative Plaques Panel considers erecting a blue plaque outside Brighton Town Hall to honour the memory of Millicent Fawcett.

Proposed by: Cllr Amy Kennedy Seconded by: Cllr Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett

Supported by: Cllr Rachel Fryer, Cllr Georgia Wrighton, Cllr Ian Davey, Cllr Ben Duncan, Cllr Jason Kitcat, Cllr Bill Randall, Cllr Sven Rufus, Cllr Paul Steedman and Cllr Pete West.

(2)  Millicent Fawcett served for several years as secretary to her husband, Henry Fawcett MP, the first blind MP. After his death, her involvement in politics continued and she became President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies.  In 1897 she spoke to the NUWSS Conference in Brighton Town Hall.

 

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For more information please contact:


Charlie Woodworth, Political Assistant, Brighton Green Group

01273 290452 / 07827 880 705

Or Cllr Amy Kennedy on 07899 758 911



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