THE lack of female Devon county councillors in senior roles is coming under fire.

Just one of the nine members of Devon’s ruling cabinet are women, while men also occupy most of the chair and vice chair positions on various committees.

The council says that despite trying to promote ‘greater diversity,’ around 70 per cent of councillors are men, and parties “put forward who they feel is most appropriate” to various roles.

The issue was raised by independent councillor Frank Biederman (Fremington Rural), who voted against the appointment of chairs and vice chairs at the authority’s annual meeting on Thursday.

'A great deal has been made of this county council’s move to more [inclusivity], equality and diversity,' Cllr Biederman said. 'And it’s also our mission statement on our website. We’re rightly very proud of our diverse workforce and we’re working to help them.'

But he added: 'I don’t believe that we do that in our election of chairs and vice chairs, and that’s why I’d like to be recorded as voting against it.

'And just to remind you, we’ve just appointed 25 male vice chairs, chairs and members of cabinet, and only six of those will be female. That’s why I can’t support this.'

In response, a council spokesperson said: 'All political groups at the council are asked to put forward chairs and vice chairs for our committees, proportionally to the number of seats held by each group.

'Despite Devon County Council trying to promote greater diversity in all its forms, including the proportion of women to men, the split between male to female councillors is currently around 70 per cent male, to 30 per cent female.

'Ultimately, the political groups will put forward who they feel is most appropriate to the role.'

Meanwhile, Cllr Percy Prowse (Conservative, Duryard & Pennsylvania) has been elected as the new chair of the council.

He will perform the ceremonial role for the next 12 months, which involves hosting full council meetings and representing the authority at civic functions.

Cllr Colin Slade (Conservative, Tiverton East) is his deputy.