Period poverty: Redbridge council call on PM to provide free sanitary products to women in need
PUBLISHED: 13:15 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:22 19 January 2018
Redbridge Council is appealing to the prime minister to trial providing free sanitary products to vulnerable women across the country.
Councillors voted unanimously in support of a motion for Council Leader Cllr Jas Athwal and Chief Executive Andy Donald to write a letter to the PM asking that funds from VAT collection on women’s hygiene products subsidise products for women in need.
But the council also rejected opposition calls to commit to leading the way by funding a similar scheme for women within the borough in April 2018.
“Some 10pc of women are not able to afford sanitary products,” said Goodmayes Councillor Barbara White, who put forward the motion.
She then went on to share examples of girls who are unable to attend school because they can not afford sanitary products, calling for the government to roll out a scheme pioneered by the Scottish government in Aberdeen.
Run by Community Food Initiatives North East, a foodbank and social enterprise, an expected 1,000 women will be able to recieve free sanitary products through the scheme.
“Periods aren’t embarssing,” she added. “It’s the state’s duty to provide a safety net for peoples basic needs.”
VAT on tampons and other sanitary products cannot be reduced below 5pc at present due to rules the UK must abide by as a member of the European Economic Area.
The average amount women pay for sanitary products in the UK over the course of their lives is £18,000, according to figures provided by Valentines ward Councillor Farah Hussain.
Conservative Cllr Emma Best, expressed support for the motion and tabled a further amendment that the council “lead the way” by introducing its own scheme.
“Women do not get to choose when they bleed,” she said, adding: “Your period doesn’t care about your bank account.”
Opposition members posited that, based on the scheme piloted in Aberdeen, such a scheme would cost around £50,000 and could be funded by scrapping council newspaper Redbridge Life and reducing the costs of interim managers within the council.
Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal responded by stating that Redbridge life is cost neutral and criticised the short notice with which the amendment was tabled.
“To see an amendment when the council meeting starts, you can’t be serious in bringing this forward.”
But added: “While we cant take this amendment forward, we need to look at how we can take the spirit of the amendment forward.”
The amendment was rejected by councillors with a vote of 35 against and 13 for with one not voting.