County councillors clash over period poverty
Suffolk County Council has vowed to tackle period poverty – but fell short of committing cash to the cause.
The council’s Labour group put forward a motion to Thursday’s full council meeting calling for £15,000 investment in tampons and sanitary towels at all local authority schools, specifically for girls who could not afford them.
It also called for the council to encourage academies, colleges and pupil referral units to provide the same – and asked for council leader Matthew Hicks to write to central government demanding VAT be removed from sanitary products.
But an amendment tabled by the Conservative group was instead approved, that said its public health team would instead promote existing projects which tackle period poverty such as Lowestoft Rising and a pilot by Suffolk Libraries.
The amendment failed to pledge any funding, which led to five councillors voting against the proposals and 16 abstaining.
Councillor Helen Armitage, Labour spokesman for health, said: “It’s not particularly unexpected but a little bit disappointing that for such a small amount of money the council couldn’t commit.
“The amount of support we have had outside of this chamber has been amazing, from quite young girls all the way up to top business women.”
Ms Armitage said she would be continuing to pursue measures that could help girls suffering from period poverty, with plans to set up boxes at the county council where tampons and sanitary towels can be donated.
Conservative councillor Mary Evans, who proposed the amended motion, said the original would only support a minority of girls as it would only be in local authority schools, describing it as 'a small amount of cash for a small amount of girls'.
She added: “I believe there shouldn’t be any barrier to education or indeed playing a full part in active life.
“We want our public health team to lead on this and promote and share best practice across the county.”
Green councillor Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw said the failure to commit cash to the cause “says to our young girls we do not value them”.
She added: “If the girls today were watching this I think it would make them quite upset knowing their council could not pay this small amount of money.”
Girls at Thurston Community College are also backing the campaign and met councillors and MEP Alex Mayer on Friday to share their experiences of the difficulties periods at school has had.