A ROW erupted at Oxfordshire County Council over how women should be referred to when they step up to the most senior ceremonial role.

Labour leader Liz Brighouse said it was ‘amazingly stupid’ that women who are appointed as chairman of the county council are given that title.

Addressing the current chairman, Zoe Patrick, she said: “I think the message we send from this chamber is that we’re really not interested in gender balance. When I look at you, I see a woman. But I’m asked to call you a man.

“I think that is an amazingly stupid, for want of a better word.”

Mrs Patrick, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Grove and Wantage, said that she ‘didn’t object’ to being called chairman – but added that at some ceremonial events her husband had been assumed to be the council’s chairman and not her.

Yvonne Constance, the county council’s member for environment, said she had no problem with the title remaining chairman in the future.

At the meeting on Tuesday, she said: “I’ve been a chairman for so many years that I’ve forgotten that it matters to some people.

“I’m so feminist, you don’t have to change the title for me to do the job,” she added.

“It is a function…and women are just as capable of doing it as men.”

The councillors were debating the county council’s draft corporate plan, which is set to be rolled out this year.

In it, the council says that it will ‘improve the balance of gender in [its] workforce, particularly in services where a group is under-represented.

The chairman is the politically impartial civic leader of Oxfordshire.