Powys female councillor 'treated like farm animal'

By Teleri Glyn Jones
BBC Wales News

  • Published
Media caption,
Bottom slap "made me feel like a farm animal"

A female councillor who had her bottom slapped by a male colleague said she felt "treated like a farm animal".

Emily Durrant, 34, was at a Brecon Beacons National Park Authority meeting in December 2017 when fellow councillor Edwin Roderick hit her bottom.

The father-of-three went on to make threats to try and stop her pursuing a complaint. She said it was part of a wider problem with sexism in local government.

Powys council said all councillors must attend equality and diversity training.

On Tuesday, Mr Roderick was suspended as a Powys councillor for four months after a panel found he had been in breach of the code of conduct.

Image caption,
Independent councillor Edwin Roderick was suspended

After the incident, Mr Roderick threatened that mother-of-two Ms Durrant would be "hung out to dry" if she pursued the complaint against him.

"I felt utterly humiliated and really degraded. As a woman I am very accustomed, sadly, to experiencing everyday sexism, but I just really didn't expect it in a position of public office," she said.

Mr Roderick has since offered his sincere "heartfelt apologies" and said "nothing like it will happen again".

Ms Durrant accepted his apology, but said it highlighted a wider problem.

"I think there is a problem in local government with sexism. I don't think this is unique to Powys - I think it's a representation problem," she said.

Image caption,
Emily Durrant has accepted an apology

Fewer than a third of Powys councillors (31.5%) are female, which is slightly higher than the percentage for the whole of Wales (28.2%).

Female councillors make up fewer than 15% of the total in five local authorities in Wales - Blaenau Gwent, Ceredigion, Merthyr Tydfil, Pembrokeshire and Anglesey.

Ms Durrant said attitudes needed to change towards diversity in local government.

"For example, I think there was quite a strong feeling that the equalities and diversity training that we had in Powys county council was a bit of a waste of time," she added.

"I think a lot of people didn't really engage in it. And there were a number of comments about the real pressure being on the man because you know we should be looking after the man because essentially he's the one that needs to be earning the money.

"Which I thought just demonstrated a real lack of understanding."

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association said: "Women should not face harassment or intimidation in modern society and certainly shouldn't experience it within councils or public bodies.

"The WLGA leadership has taken a zero tolerance of such behaviour and conduct, there are strict procedures in place to deal with such instances but it is important that support is provided to councillors too.

"Unfortunately, not only are women significantly underrepresented in our council chambers they are also disproportionally subjected to abuse, bullying and intimidation too, particularly through social media."

To see the full interview, watch Wales Live on BBC One Wales at 22:35 GMT on Wednesday, or watch it afterwards on iPlayer.