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Paul Carter criticised after claiming 'no glass ceiling' despite one woman in senior Kent County Council team

The leader of Kent County Council has come under fire for claiming there is "no glass ceiling" for female staff at the organisation, despite having only one woman in his top team.

Cllr Paul Carter, who spoke following the release of the council's gender pay gap figures, hailed the authority's equal pay policy.

However, opposition politicians said they could not take seriously his statements, given there is only one woman in his cabinet of 10.

KCC leader Paul Carter
KCC leader Paul Carter

Figures released by the council show the difference in salaries between men and women is below the national average of 18%.

On average, female employees at the local authority receive about 12% less pay than men.

Cllr Carter said: “Kent County Council has an equal pay policy which means that men and women get paid the same salary for the same job.

“There is no glass ceiling at KCC and the number of female and male employees at corporate director level is 50/50.

“We employ by meritocracy and nothing else, irrespective of whether they are ladies or gentlemen.”

His comments, made at the council's personnel committee meeting, prompted criticism from opposition groups.

Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan, from the Labour Party, said she “can’t take him seriously” on gender issues.

She said: “It is difficult to take the leader of the council seriously on the glass ceiling when his own front bench consists of only one woman.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Rob Bird.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Rob Bird.

“I think KCC has a long way to go before it can showcase itself as representative and reflective of our society we serve.

“A gender pay gap is there. It clearly is still a problem. We need to look into why it is still an issue.

“For example, a lot of women have caring responsibilities and what is KCC doing to help support that?

“Are there allowances for flexible working, parental leave or carers’ leave?

“Are good people - women and men - being held back because they can’t meet the needs of higher paying jobs because of these issues?”

Leader of the Lib Dem opposition, Cllr Rob Bird, said he is “disappointed” and “surprised” that Cllr Carter has not given women a bigger role within his senior team at County Hall.

He said: “Within KCC it is disappointing that there is only one woman in the cabinet.

“Of the 67 Conservative county councillors, at present 18 are women, so it is surprising that Paul Carter is not prepared to give women a bigger role in the Conservative administration."

Paul Carter has been criticised for his 'glass ceiling' remarks. Stock picture
Paul Carter has been criticised for his 'glass ceiling' remarks. Stock picture

In response, Cllr Carter said his party are working hard to recruit more female councillors but added “the direction of travel is encouraging”.

He said: “It is pleasing to note that we now have more women members than ever before.

“At the 2017 election we saw an increase in the number of female councillors from 16 to 21 and, following a recent by-election this increased to 22.

“We continue to work hard to attract more females into these roles and the direction of travel is encouraging.

“However this is a national issue across local government and Westminster.”

Under legislation passed last year, any organisation with more than 250 employees must publish its gender pay gap statistics by March 31.

This compulsory research also includes a breakdown of the proportion of males and females in different pay scales.

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