Labour-run Milton Keynes Council will become the first council in England to provide funds to tackle period poverty, if budget proposals due to be announced next week are approved by councillors early next year.
On Monday, MK Council will publish details of how it intends to make £10m in cuts in 2019/20 in order to balance the books next year. The proposals will take the levels of cuts made since 2010 to over £150m, with over £30m more to find in the next four years.
However the Labour-run administration of the council has placed helping vulnerable people as one of its top priorities, and the budget proposals will include providing around £70,000 over the next three to fund free sanitary products to young women at school who cannot afford them. The latest research from children’s charity Plan International UK reports that one in 10 young women have been unable to afford period products, with numbers in some areas as high as one in seven. Many young women have had to miss lessons or school due to not having access to sanitary products.
Milton Keynes Council will publish its Draft Budget for 2019/20 next week, with the Cabinet meeting in December to approve public consultation on the proposals. A final decision on the budget will be taken by all councillors in February 2019. If agreed the period poverty proposals would begin in April 2019.
Cllr Hannah O’Neill, Cabinet Member for Public Health said:
“It is shameful that in a place as affluent as Milton Keynes many young women cannot afford sanitary products during their periods. Many have to miss school at a vital stage in life because of this.”
“We will therefore be proposing in our Draft Budget for 2019/20 that MK Council becomes the first in the country to actively fund the fight against period poverty. We are doing this not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we believe that in the long term we are investing in ensuring all women have the opportunity to reach their potential and do not have to miss school, and risk their future, because they can’t afford sanitary products. We will work with existing charities, schools and partners on how to deliver this scheme appropriately.”
Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council said:
“Period poverty is the result of a failing national Tory government. After nearly a decade of Tory austerity people, and services, are at breaking point. Yet despite having to make another £10m in cuts next year, Labour-led MK Council will continue our focus on fighting the impact of austerity and investing in long term wellbeing, and with this funding we will ensure dignity for young women and invest in their futures. Only a Labour Government can end period poverty, in the meantime we will continue to manage our budgets well, protect services and avoid the chaos of many Tory-run councils.”