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Councillor loses battle to ban use of outdated Mrs and Ms

Deneice Florence-Jukes, (pictured) a member of East Staffordshire Borough Council, objected to the way she and other women were referred to

A Tory councillor has lost her battle to ban the use of ‘outdated’ Mrs, Miss and Ms prefixes in favour of ‘gender neutral’ alternatives in her own council.

Deneice Florence-Jukes, a member of East Staffordshire Borough Council, objected to the way she, and other women, were referred to.

But her ‘gender neutral’ suggestion was defeated by the council as members complained they were being put into a ‘politically-correct straitjacket’.

They voted to allow councillors to select whatever title they preferred.  

After the vote Florence-Jukes said she felt a ‘degree of disappointment’ at the decision by the council and claimed it was a ‘blow’ to openness and equality.

She said: ‘It’s a blow for sending a clear message out to the people in the borough that we’re open and forward thinking and we’re not hung up on titles.’  

She said the main opposition to change was from ‘ladies who like being called Mrs’.

‘I am sort of battling against the very people I am trying to assist really,’ she said. 

‘I would say to them get with the programme, it is completely outdated, it is not necessary at all and it is not helping the cause of equality and diversity. 

‘If we look at our chamber, it lacks diversity, and I am hoping that it is away of addressing that and encouraging more people to come into the council so we better reflect the people that we serve.’ 

The 56-year-old had put forward a motion calling on her council to dispense with the traditional forms of address. 

It asked members to ‘demonstrate a commitment to recognising that all members of this council are equal, irrespective of their gender…and that henceforth all councillors are addressed by the same gender neutral title of councillor followed by first and last names.’ 

But at a meeting this week, an amendment was put forward by her fellow Tory councillor Jacqui Jones suggesting that instead of completely removing any title from a name, each councillor should use their own discretion and be able to choose if they want to use the title. 

The amendment was seconded by another Conservative councillor Julia Jessel, who said: ‘They want to eliminate discrimination, but in doing that you’re eliminating personal choice.

‘I did explain to the mover of this motion some time ago that I, through personal choice, prefer to be referred to as Mrs Jessel.

Jacqui Jones said each councillor should be able to choose how they wished to be addressed

Julia Jessel

Jacqui Jones (left) and Julia Jessel (right) said each councillor should be able to choose how they wished to be addressed

‘Technically I am not a Mrs. I was divorced in the year 2000 but chose, because my children were young, to retain my married name and my married status.

‘I think that should be down to people’s personal preference, if you don’t want the title, a Mr, Miss, Ms or Mrs, that should be your choice.

‘This authority, I’ve always found has been very respectful to the individual and one of the things that I speak against is being put into a politically-correct straitjacket.’ 

The amendment was passed after the vote saw 14 councillors vote in favour and 13 against, with a further four councillors abstaining.

Despite being defeated in the council Florence-Jukes’ campaign has seen etiquette bible Debrett’s change its guidance on how to address local councillors.

Its guidance on forms of address now states that when verbally addressing a member of local government, people should say ‘Councillor (followed by name, where applicable by rank and title or in the case of a woman, by Mrs/Miss but not Ms)’.  

Florence-Dukes said she was delighted at being able to get Debrett’s to update its guidance. 

It comes after Scout leaders were told not to call youngsters ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ and use ‘gender-neutral’ language such as ‘everybody’ instead.