ON Thursday evening, we came together as a whole for its first meeting of the new civic year – the council’s AGM.

We have 51 elected members at Ebley Mill but only 14 of those members are women.

That means that 27 per cent of SDC councillors are women, whereas the latest census for 2011 shows that the UK population is split almost down the middle – 51% of the population are female, 49% are male.

Clearly, despite the efforts made by this council and the main parties to improve the gender balance, more needs to be done to improve it.

Next May, all 51 seats at Ebley Mill are up for election and it would be a big step forward to improve the diversity of members/.

There is a framework of expenses and allowances for example for travel and childcare, so that no-one, whatever their responsibilities outside the council should be put off standing for election. So whatever political party you support, or even if you are fiercely independent, and you spot someone who would you think might make a great district councillor and representative of their local community, encourage them to consider it. We’ll aim to run an event in the autumn with more information what the role involves.

In terms of officers who work for the council, there is still a gender pay gap but it is narrowing on last year, and we are committed to promoting equality of opportunity and taking positive steps to continue to close it.

After the appointments are made for the coming civic year, council will consider two important documents which will help shape the future.

Finally, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as an employer we have laid on 13 events aimed at raising the profile of everyone’s mental health needs.