Lichfield District Council House
Lichfield District Council House

A councillor has called for the use of gender neutral titles at Lichfield District Council.

Cllr Joanne Grange questioned why the term chairman was used to indicate those who had previously held the title at the local authority.

The list includes a number of female councillors, most recently Norma Bacon, who held the position in 2015/16.

Cllr Grange, independent member for Chadsmead ward, said:

Joanne Grange
Joanne Grange

“It is interesting that Tamworth Borough Council describes leaders of its committees just as ‘chair’ but Lichfield District Council still uses ‘chairman’ despite having ‘vice-chairs’.

“Birmingham City Council also uses chair – even Handforth Parish Council uses chair.

“If Handforth, Birmingham and Tamworth are showing a more modern approach to gender neutral terms than Lichfield District Council then I’m guessing this might be an embarrassment?”

Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Doug Pullen, leader of the council, said the local authority was looking at the potential for changes to the terms used.

Doug Pullen
Doug Pullen

“We are reviewing our constitution, which will include the suggestion to adopt the gender neutral term of ‘chair’. 

“This follows on from removing references to ‘Mrs’ Councillor as we seek to move away from historical practices.

“I am also proud that our gender pay gap is significantly lower at 7.3% when compared to the national average of 17.4%.

“There is still more work to be done, but we are in a strong position.”

Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council

31 replies on “Councillor calls for gender-neutral term to replace chairman at Lichfield District Council”

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  1. Whatever floats your boat LDC – you can call yourselves myopic alien beings from another planet if you like. No one cares. Just PLEASE lobby SCC to fix the pot holes and stop approving terrible housing projects. That is all we ask.

  2. One wonders whether we’d need to “look at the potential for changes to the terms used” if it was another of the protected characteristics that was being discriminated through use of language or whether it would just happen, with the minimum of fuss.

    My comments were intended as a light-hearted view of the old-fashioned nature of LDC – the fact we had to have a debate and a motion had to be tabled before we stopped using “Cllr Mrs” as a title was a complete waste of all our time when there are far more important matters to discuss and nobody could object to the change without falling foul of the Equality Act.

    The more serious message is that this is an example of LDC not following its own policies. The Equality Statement 2021 states very clearly “our focus is on the nine protected characteristics and demonstrating how equality considerations are embedded in our decision making processes, and how they can influence both our service delivery and employment practices”. Changing language has been identified by people far cleverer than I am as being an important step in being a truly inclusive organisation. For example, the European Parliament states that “gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is more than a matter of political correctness. Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviour and perceptions”.

    Maybe if we took this sort of thing seriously, and started with getting language right, we wouldn’t just scrap blue badge parking spaces in the City Centre without undertaking an equality impact assessment, we wouldn’t have located a temporary gym at Friary Grange at the bottom of a flight of stair without considering wheelchair access and we might have a vice-chair who is more empathetic to childcare issues rather than suggesting carrying a baby risks turning the council into a circus.

    Personally I don’t care what people call me (and some of the names are really quite rude). What I do care about is being part of a council that takes its public sector equality duty seriously in respect of all protected characteristics and I’m not seeing a lot of evidence of that at the moment.

  3. You hear the word chair a lot when the word that is meant is chairman or chair woman. A chair is a piece of furniture that you sit on
    LDC will be trying to think of a new word for a manhole I suggest calling it a person hole. Mr Pullen or is it just Pullen is probably trying that already

  4. This subject of Councillors debating what to call themselves in closed meetings will seem trivial at best or irrelevent at worst. Residents of this City are in shock over the scale of development encircling their home town. The loss of the rural aspect of the City and the threat of vast urban expansion. So Madam Chairman get up off your throne and defend your fellow citizens from the rapacious developers before it’s too late!

  5. I don’t know SB, but I’d suggest there’s likely to be a correlation between the two…
    Forward-thinking policies might just well lead to forward-thinking Cllrs & new ideas…
    Most businesses I’ve come across have a Chair.

  6. @Alastair – I agree it could be seen as trivial or irrelevant, but the underlying message of taking the Public Sector Equality Duty seriously is neither trivial nor irrelevant, and I make no apology for seeking to ensure that LDC considers inclusivity for all regardless of gender, age, disability, religion, sex, race, pregnancy, gender reassignment or marriage in line with the Equality Act.

    Just maybe if it did, and was more representative of the population at large, there would be more voices, like mine, fighting against over-development not just in the large new estates but at the also at the more local level with infill development on what are so quaintly called “windfall plots” but which the rest of us call “gardens”.

  7. At first I thought this was another example of political correctness gone mad, but Cllr Grange does make some good points. And when are we going to get rid of the overgrown plant pots and give parking back to those who really need it? The argument about social distancing is going to look even weaker in June.

  8. When I represented a local cause at an L D C meeting several ‘ladies’ engaged in a conversation while I was speaking. They did not take part in the subsequent debate but voted against the proposal. I complained (in writing) to Mike Wilcox about this behaviour. He did not reply. You don’t demand respect you earn it !

  9. A single councillor posted a single “lighthearted” tweet about a niggle she has with some everyday sexism, and suddenly commenters seem to think it’s an indication that the whole council are fixated on issues that they consider to be irrelevant.
    These things are important. They are indicative of an old attitude. But it is entirely possible to consider them in an intelligent, appropriate manner whilst also continuing about the rest of the council’s business.

  10. If i remember correctly the word Chair was used to denote ‘the chair’ that the Chairperson sat on. Thus whoever sat on ‘the chair’ was the Chairperson albeit whatever gender or for that matter sexual or gender orientation.

  11. Change to President Or just call each other by their first names, solves a problem. Everyone knowns who the President/Chair/Leader is and the Vices… so in the minutes you just put the titles.

  12. @Philip

    Silly man! Don’t you know “ladies” can multitask!?
    I kid. The fact they weren’t listening has nothing to do with gender, does it? No body should have to earn being treated as an equal.
    Maybe your misogyny was showing that day?

  13. Why not focus on real issues that are affecting the people of Lichfield, the ones that pay your salary?
    No one cares about your feelings towards gendered language, everyone shouldn’t be scrambling to try and protect everyone’s precious feelings, it’s the reason the world is in such a cancerous state.

  14. I know why not play background music at Council meetings then they can call each other Musical Chairs.

  15. Cllr Grange is standing up for inclusion and not exclusion and I commend her for it, however our community is in a fight for it’s life and identity too! We’re talking semantics, whilst the world is facing a climate change emergency, and our community can’t even house it’s own citizens. I take issue with the Cllr on the ‘infill’ developments, they should happen, just ma ke sure they’re regulated properly. The people should be encouraged to build, it should be not ‘help to buy’ but ‘help to build’, and if that’s in the back garden all well & good, it will then save the ‘Greenbelt’ and our natural wild places. Our society mustn’t let the developers try to solve the housing crisis, it should become every persons right to build their own home, themselves or with their neighbours, we need to some ‘barn raising’ of our own to save the planet.

  16. For goodness sake why can’t ‘Chair’ be used. It’s easy, simple and everyone knows who the ‘Chair’ is. I support Councillor Grange.

  17. @Pierre…. I don’t think so Pierre. Frankly there are so many gender definitions these days it would be impossible not to offend somebody. I was representing a mixed gender group and was frustrated that my allotted time of five minutes on a stop watch was not respected by the decision makers.
    I have been on, and chaired, many committees. This one had a man in the chair; his performance was poor on that occasion. As there was not the facility of appeal I thought this was undemocratic and that transcends any gender consideration.
    If changing gender reference means we are all equal then all well and good. Many don’t feel equal even within their own gender for a variety of reasons.

  18. It is a chairman as in a human that holds the chair. The man bit is to distinguish between, for example, a cow (be that a cow or a bull (still a cow) and a human. The word chairman, or fireman, policeman, linesman, is not gendered, it is already gender neutral. A chair is a piece of furniture to be sat on. I remember a female politician some years ago objecting to someone referring to her as the chair for that reason.

  19. @David. I have watched a number of the LDC meetings on livestream.

    I have been reallyy impressed with Cllr Grange and Cllr Ray. They have obviously read the reports and raise pertinent questions, in the meetings.

    Some others, have had no input whatsoever.

  20. Chris – I thought it was police officer, fire officer, assistant referee these days. Or are you referring to the good old days?

  21. What is wrong with this country, too afraid of offending weirdos who just want attention by jumping up and down when they don’t get their own way. The traditions that made this country great are fading fast because of the snowflake brigade. Free speech only applies to those of a particular type who can get away with it without fear of being prosecuted because of their……….!C’mon people let’s get back to normal.

  22. I personally do not care what they sit on or where. I do not care about their colour creed or gender.
    I just want them to do what all of them said they would do. Get on with the job in hand and not waffle about with such trivia.

  23. What a legacy for the Enlightenment which saw the Lunar Society in Lichfield.
    18th Century progression, Lichfield at a heart of that, has got us to this…
    …Spending more time discussing whether gender is a part of business culture on this forum rather than just accepting it’s a dinosaur and irrelevant.
    Aiming to encourage a wider community base to join the political class can only be a positive thing.
    Lichfield, stuck in its past. Residents moaning about council decisions but continually voting for Cllrs of same mindset. Not connecting these things at all but more likely enjoying the mansplaining.
    Cllr Grange, I applaud you.

  24. Scribbler since when has a fireman been called a fire officer answer never, as for the police it is a police man or a police woman

  25. ML – omg, please excuse my terrible error. I meant firefighter, obviously

    Thank goodness I was right about police officer though –

    Phew! 2 out of 3 isn’t bad (I’m assuming you accept the assistant referee title rather than linesman?).

    Anyway, back to the good old days for you too when you could call a spade a shovel and not get into trouble for simply speaking your brain about what’s actually wrong with the world.

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