RETIRING councillor Shahabuddin Solkar has launched a campaign for South Asian women to become councillors in East Lancashire

Shahabuddin and his wife Shamim said they were shocked there is not a single Asian woman on Blackburn with Darwen council, the county or any of the five boroughs in the area – Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn, or Ribble Valley.

Now they are calling for women of South Asian heritage to come forward to ensure the representation in council chambers matches the make-up of the voters.

The only woman from an ethnic minority on Blackburn with Darwen Council is Jordanian-born Liberal Democrat Karimeh Foster.

The Solkars’ campaign has been backed by Mrs Foster’s husband and borough LibDem leader David, Pendle Labour leader Mohammed Iqbal, and Lancashire county Tory boss Geoff Driver.

Blackburn has 17 Asian male councillors (three on the ruling executive board), Pendle nine, Burnley four, Hyndburn four and Lancashire county five.

Coun Solkar, who was deselected from Shear Brow ward for next month’s local elections, made his appeal at his final borough Council Forum.

He said: “We need South Asian female councillors.

“There is a democratic deficit. We need South Asian women on the council, of whatever party, to represent them properly. I hope to return to Blackburn with Darwen borough as a councillor but would stand aside as a candidate to allow a South Asian woman to take my place.

“I appeal for women of a South Asian background to come forward to stand for whatever party.”

Mrs Solkar said: “I hope to become a councillor.

“We need South Asian women on local councils so that females from that cultural background know there is someone to approach who understands them.”

Blackburn Labour Party secretary Phil Riley said: “We would encourage women from this background to come forward. The lack of women of South Asian background on East Lancashire councils is a democratic deficit.”

Burnley-born and Rossendale-raised Coun Driver said: “We need South Asian women councillors so our political bodies are representative of the areas they cover.”

Coun Iqbal said; “We certainly need South Asian women on our councils.

“Labour in Pendle has plans to put this right at next year’s local elections.”

Coun Foster said: “I support this move.

“It is important to our democracy.”