Shropshire Council’s almost exclusively male cabinet needs an equalities champion to close the council’s gender pay gap

Council leader Peter Nutting reshuffled his cabinet last week. There is only one woman among 16 portfolio holders and deputy portfolio holders. It is hardly a surprise then that data published by the government last week show that Shropshire has one of the biggest gender pay gaps of any council. Women earn 18% less than men in the council. Only 11 of 287 English councils have bigger gender pay gaps than Shropshire Council according to the Government.

A local council champion was appointed in the cabinet reshuffle. The male dominated cabinet now needs an equalities champion to drive a reduction in the gender pay gap across the council.

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Shropshire Council has one of the highest gender pay gaps of all councils – it must stop making excuses and tackle the problem

At 2pm on Maundy Thursday afternoon, just as everyone was slipping away for the Easter break, Shropshire Council issued a press release detailing how much men and women are paid by the council. I have taken a reality check on this. Its positive tone belies the reality that Shropshire Council is bumping along the bottom on closing the gender pay gap. Only 12 councils in England pay women less than Shropshire Council.

Maundy Thursday was a good time to bury bad news and there was certainly bad news to bury. What the council was anxious to slip out before the Easter break was that it is one of the worst performers on equal pay in the England. Only 12 of more than 300 councils in England have a larger gender pay gap than Shropshire Council.

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We can be proud of our parliament after tonight’s gay marriage vote

What a busy two days it has been in politics!

Chris Huhne, a great champion of the environmental cause, announced himself a liar and admitted to perverting the course of justice. He joins an all too long list of cheats and criminals that have sat on the benches of the Commons and Lords. Jonathan Aitken, Neil Hamilton and Lord Archer went to prison for their crimes. They were joined in the Hall of Shame by the MPs that bent the rules on expenses. Six bent the rules so far they ended up in prison.

Public confidence in MPs is at an all-time low. This is not just due to the minority of MPs who seem incapable of working within the law. It is because when most MPs go to Westminster they seem to forget about the concerns and needs of their electors.

But this evening, the House of Commons did a great thing. It passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading by a considerable majority.

This decision is brave, modern and right. Britain has a great tradition of striding towards equality, often against considerable opposition. We have abolished slavery, and legislated for equal rights, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. The time for gay marriage has come, and the Commons has rightly recognised that.

We are not by any means a perfect country in matters of equality. But we can be a proud of our country and its parliament after tonight’s vote.

The bill has to pass through the Lords. Some pundits suggest the Lords will throw it out. That would be very wrong. The Lords is the most unequal of chambers. Nevertheless, it has a modern-day reputation for bringing wisdom to legislation. It should not oppose this bill. It should recognise the clear will of the Commons and of the British public and work to improve the text of the bill.