Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID TAYLOR-GOOBY

IGET to hear about many reports. There are not hours in the day to look at all the ones that I hear about, but every so often I make a real effort to read one.

One such report was "Who Runs the North East Now?" by Professors Fred Robinson and Keith Shaw, a study of who is actually in charge of running public services in our region.

I am particularly interested because I sit on various boards and committees, but as to how much influence I have I leave to others to judge.

I know one of the authors, Fred Robinson of St Chad's College, Durham. I have known him for a long time and I know he is really committed to researching key issues in our region and campaigning for positive change. So I read it.

The report looks at who the people are who make decisions on our behalf. These are local authorities, NHS bodies, schools and colleges, universities, the police, cultural and sports organisations, and finally housing. I expect most of us can guess what the results were. Yes - there was a predominance of white middle class males. Things are improving, though. The Board of the North East Ambulance Service has more women than men, and there are several Trusts with women chief executives. The majority of college principals are women. Ethnic minorities and disabled people are underrepresented. The region now has one ethnic minority MP, who is also a woman, and of the region's 29 MPs 14 are women. The national average is 32%. This compares with only four MPs being women in 2000, when the authors did their last survey.

Efforts have been made to improve the number of women in political positions. The most positive action has been taken by the Labour Party, which now has quotas to ensure that women are selected as candidates for Parliament and local authorities. Although this was initially unpopular it seems to have worked. Having said this there is still a long way to go. Ethnic minorities and disabled people are still significantly underrepresented. Although one of the many NHS governing bodies and boards has a majority of women, most do not. The boards governing social housing are also male-dominated. …

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