NLGN thoughts on the Women’s Equality Party manifesto
Claire Porter, Head of External Affairs, 16 May, 2017

The Women’s Equality Party manifesto was published late on Friday, and unlike other party manifestos, has been expressly drafted with the intention for other parties to adopt its policies. While the manifesto focuses on their core aims with no specific section on local government, there are a lot of proposals that touch on services that local government provides.

There are some interesting thoughts on health and social care:

  • Investing substantially in social infrastructure, which the WE party say will create twice as many jobs as investing in infrastructure
  • Ensuring that when devolved, social care has sufficient resources
  • Ending zero hours contracts for care workers and moving towards the living wage
  • Investing in integrated health and social care
The investment in health and social care would be funded by action on tax debt, tax avoidance and tax evasion, bringing in at least £120bn a year – the same amount that it costs to run NHS England. The health and social care system continues to struggle with providing high quality care and retaining staff due to significant funding shortages. When 82% of workers in the wider care sector are women, the lack of funding for key jobs is clearly disproportionately affecting one gender – but regardless, in order to deliver proper services there needs to be proper funding.

  • There is also a strongly collaborative policy on housing, encouraging all political parties, housing charities, property developers, local authorities, the community and voluntary sector along with other experts to work together to build affordable housing. This collaboration is one of the key things missing from the housing debate, and key to making real change to the chronic housing crisis we are currently facing.
  • As we would expect, there are also a number of policies towards ending violence towards women and girls, several of which could be delivered by local government – access to specialist support and advocacy series in their community, and making sure that front line staff (such as health care workers, police, social services etc) are able to identify potential victims of violence and act in a preventative way. This could have the potential to be expanded to other areas of local government, such as vulnerable adults and children, but what is missing is the mechanism for how this should practically be delivered.
The one thing that is surprising was how the section on the importance of women in political representation mostly focused on the national level – local elections are only mentioned in passing. Only 33% of councillors are women, and every regional Mayor elected earlier this month is male. Increasing the diversity of councillors is hugely important – it is where decisions that affect people’s day to day lives and the delivery of services are made. Prioritising the representation of women at a local level as well as national would ensure that a diverse range of voices are heard when policy is made in areas that the manifesto doesn’t cover, particularly when most of the key public services that are so crucial in this election will be delivered by local government. Women should be empowered to stand for office at all levels of elected office, and to help shape the world which the WE party is so earnest to change.