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County council to consider introducing parental leave for elected members

A plan to give councillors parental leave is being considered by Staffordshire County Council in a bid to create a more diverse set of elected members.

A more parent-friendly policy is being considered by a local authority to encourage a wider range of people to stand for election.

There is currently no legal right to parental leave for anyone in public office, including MPs as well as councillors, and only 4% of local authorities in England have a formal policy on the issue.

But Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of the county council, said he was keen to see Staffordshire make it easier for people with children to stand for election in future.

Cllr Philip Atkins
Cllr Philip Atkins. Pic: M Holland

“We have many able and hard-working councillors in Staffordshire, but it’s time to take a step forward to encourage a wider range of potential candidates,” he said.

“We are a large county with a diverse range of talented citizens and we want our elected representatives to be the widest possible reflection of those abilities.

“For that to happen we must remove the barriers that can stop people being able to help their communities.”

According to national analysis by the Fawcett Society:

  • one third of female councillors of child-bearing age found a lack of maternity leave a barrier to fulfilling their role
  • fewer than 20% of local authority leaders are women
  • in 20 years between 1997 and 2017, the proportion of female councillors only rose from 27 per cent to 32 per cent

A working party at Staffordshire County Council will consider issues such as how the work from a councillor’s area is covered by colleagues, how to ensure they do not break the law which requires councillors to attend at least one meeting in a six month period and for how long members should receive their basic allowance.

Cllr Atkins said: “There is no one way of doing it, but councillors work to make things better for their communities by building connections, bringing people together and helping people to help themselves.

“I don’t want how we currently do things to be a bar to the brightest and best people in our county stepping forward to do their bit.”

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