Calls for Northampton Borough Council to offer free sanitary products in their toilets for female staff on their period were rejected by councillors.
A motion brought forward by Labour councillor Zoe Smith asked for the council to make a stand against ‘period poverty’ and support campaigns such as The Red Box Project, including setting up a donation box at The Guildhall.
Speaking to full council on Monday evening (December 10), Councillor Smith said that the issue used to be a taboo subject, and it was only recently that women had felt more confident to speak out about it in public.
But her motion was turned down by the Conservative administration, which said it would be more fruitful for the council’s Youth Forum to look at.
Councillor and Conservative cabinet member Anna King said: “This is something that we had been looking at, and we feel this is an ideal project to take to the Youth Forum and see how we can get this into schools. I don’t think it’s something we should be voting on in this chamber.”
But Councillor Smith argued: “The stance from the other side of the room is really worrying. I’m 33 and have periods, it’s not something only young women go through. There are people working within these walls who might run into trouble. It should be reasonable to have sanitary products on offer.
“By all means have this conversation in the Youth Forum as well. But don't be the majority male administration that turns down a motion supporting women on their periods.”
The Labour party said that a recent study by the Plan International UK charity found that 45 per cent of UK women have to use socks or newspaper during their period.
Conservative leader Jonathan Nunn appeared to have no problems with the idea, but took issue with the subject being raised through an official opposition motion, rather than simply raising the issue with councillors in person.
He said: “I have a funny feeling if someone had just spoken to Councillor King we could have had these in place already. You don't need to do motions all the time."
But Labour leader Danielle Stone said she was ‘dismayed’ at the decision of the Conservatives to vote the motion down.
She said: “I never imagined that this would not have had cross-party support.
"The cost to the council was minimal but the difference it could have made to women was huge. The council has missed the opportunity to be advocates and influencers on this real issue.”