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“Major step backwards for gender equality” - Suffolk fails to back task force for girls' prospects

PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 March 2019

Councillor Caroline Page said failure to back the gender equality motion was

Councillor Caroline Page said failure to back the gender equality motion was "shameful". Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Failing to back calls to form a dedicated task force for improving outcomes of Suffolk’s girls has been dubbed a “major step backwards for gender equality”.

Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffok County Council cabinet member for adult care, said Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffok County Council cabinet member for adult care, said "equality for all" was needed. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

A motion was put forward at a full meeting of Suffolk County Council on Thursday calling for a cross-party group to be formed to come up with ideas for improving outcomes for girls.

The motion also called for more detailed data on the gender gap in Suffolk.

Liberal Democrat councillor Caroline Page submitted the motion following International Women’s Day earlier this month and the #BalanceforBetter campaign.

But while the chamber backed the principal of the motion, opposition to the plan claimed that “positive discrimination” would not help.

Mrs Page said it was “disheartening and shameful” that the motion was voted down, adding: “Failing to support this motion was a major step backwards for gender equality.”

During the meeting, she said: “I am disappointed my colleagues opposite are so reluctant to see reality in the face.

“The motion was talking about #BalanceforBetter and that is a gender neutral term.

“Modern Suffolk has a high gender pay gap, high violence against women.”

“It seems Suffolk has yet to fully engage with women and what they have to offer.”

Policy development panels (PDPs) are formed of a handful of councillors across the parties to map out ideas and solutions to tackle a specific problem, and present recommendations to cabinet within around six months.

Suffolk Observatory collates data on a wide range of areas including health, education and demographics, but Mrs Page said not all of its data was broken down by gender, meaning some areas where women fared worse than men were hidden.

The motion was voted down by 45 votes to 17 in favour.

Beccy Hopfensperger, Conservative cabinet member for adult care, said: “We have a moral obligation to promote, encourage and highlight equality in everything we do.

“This is why I am unable to support a PDP [policy development panel] promoting improving outcomes for one section of society.

“Of course we should be doing this for women but we should be doing this for all walks of life.

“While I support gender equality and the sentiments of the motion I also believe in equality for all.”

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