A COUNCILLOR says a report highlighting a lack of women on the county’s 134 parish councils "paints a shocking picture".

Herefordshire councillor Yolande Watson (Kerne Bridge, Independents for Herefordshire) slammed the lack of female representation, with a survey showing women are under-represented on 80 per cent of the parish bodies, with seven having no female representatives at all.

The county councillor is part of the Herefordshire Women’s Equality Group (HWEG), which carried out the research and says more women should be recruited to make the decisions that affect local communities.

She said the findings "paint a shocking picture" given that parish councils "are the first step of local democracy".

"’Levelling Up’ should require parish councils to reflect the age and gender ratios of their local communities," she said. "Otherwise, those views will be overlooked."

Parish councils, which include town councils, assess local planning applications, oversee some local spending, and look after community amenities such as footpaths and play areas.

HWEG conducted the research after finding out that official bodies do not collect or publish such information.

Spokesperson Jane Jackson said: "Women are essential to any solutions to building resilience in our Herefordshire communities in the face of climate change and the increase in the ageing population and social care provision.

"Their voices must be heard in all decision-making bodies."

Over all, there are more than twice as many male parish councillors (725) than females (348), the group found.

However, in a finding which Cllr Watson described as "positive", 22 of 53 Herefordshire county councillors are currently women.