COUNCILS in north Essex have been told there is “no excuse for inaction” after it was revealed NONE have maternity policies in place to

help councillors who are pregnant.

A study by the Fawcett Society has found just 7 per cent of councils in the UK had a maternity policy for members and just 20 councils had a policy for councillors who had senior cabinet-level roles.

Colchester, Tendring, Braintree and Maldon councils confirmed they do not have policies in place.

But they said absent members could continue to claim allowances and have colleagues who can stand in where they are not able to attend meetings.

The Fawcett Society has urged council leaders to make being a councillor more accessible to women.

Data collected found 29 per cent of councillors on Colchester Council are women, 31 per cent in Braintree and 37 per cent in Tendring.

Maldon recorded the highest per cent of female councillors with 42 per cent - up from 29 per cent in 2018.

The Fawcett Society called for councils to introduce maternity policies amid fears a combination of factors are putting women off standing for office.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, who was educated at Colchester County High School for Girls, has been calling for more provision for MPs who have children while elected.

She said women were forced to choose between being an MP and being a mum due to Parliamentary rules which mean there is no paid cover.

Ms Creasy said some MPs have even been forced to take their newborns to meetings or beg colleagues to help.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said: “It is shocking that in 2019 just

20 councils reported having maternity policies in place for councillors.

“There is no excuse for this inaction. The Local Government Association has introduced a toolkit for councils which includes the guidance and policies they need to make the change necessary. It is time for them to use it.”

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: “Like most local authorities, we do not operate a maternity policy for councillors. However, members receive an allowance rather than a salary and this is still paid for a minimum of six months when a member is absent.

“Our members’ allowances scheme also includes a child care and dependent carer’s arrangement, which allows councillors to claim care costs while attending meetings.”

A Tendring Council spokesman said there are no plans to introduce any new policy.

He said: “In terms of finances, as councillors receive an allowance this would not be affected by parental leave, and members would still be eligible for their allowance.

“With regard to attendance at meetings our existing constitution and protocols would cover any parental leave by a councillor.

“We have simple and straightforward arrangements for one councillor to be substituted for another, or being given permission to miss council meetings for a period longer than six months.”

“Because of this existing provision there are no plans to introduce a members’ parental policy.”

Maldon District Council said HR policies were set to be reviewed and a maternity policy “may be considered as part of that work”.

A Braintree Council spokesman said: “Thirty one per cent of our councillors are women and while we don’t have a formal maternity policy for councillors we would clearly assist any councillor who needed support performing their role.

“We also have comprehensive arrangements to support councillors who have caring responsibilities to fulfil their duties including arrangements to pay for the costs of childcare or dependant adults.”