Tax on tampons condemned at Solihull meeting

A decision not to debate a motion on period poverty at Solihull Council has been roundly criticised by opposition councillors.

The Green Party had hoped for a vote to be held on a number of measures they had put forward to this week’s Full Council meeting, arguing these could help end “the silence and stigma” around menstruation.

But the ruling Conservative group argued the best course of action was to refer the issue to the relevant cabinet member to further investigate the situation locally.

Introducing the topic, Cllr Ben Groom (Smith’s Wood) described the struggle some faced to afford sanitary products as “a scandal” and had called for the council to support efforts providing free items in borough schools and colleges.

“What we have here is a simple, effective solution to a problem that shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century,” he said.

“For a derisory amount of effort we can improve educational opportunity, increase chances for young women and take an important step towards a more equal Solihull.”

The motion had also called on the council to write to senior cabinet ministers and urge the end of VAT on women’s hygiene products.

Cllr Groom listed a string of things that are, by contrast, not subject to the levy including “a trip to the opera, repairing your aeroplane, a helicopter, paying an accountant to help you avoid tax, and – of course – Jaffa Cakes.”

“If you too prioritise these above women’s health and education you are welcome to vote against the motion,” he said.

Responding, Cllr Bob Sleigh, leader of Solihull Council, said: “I don’t run the world, I actually do run Solihull along with all the members in this chamber.

“Therefore I’m proposing referral to the cabinet member for children, education and skills for consideration.”

Minutes after the decision, several Green councillors tweeted their frustration.

Cllr James Burn, the leader of the official opposition, branded the move “disgraceful”, adding: “If there was an issue that absolutely needs talking about, this is one.”

Cllr Max McLoughlin (Green, Shirley South) said: “#PeriodPoverty is a matter of dignity. I feel we should have at least dignified the matter with debate.”

However, Cllr Katy Blunt (Con, Olton) hit back on the social media site.

“[The motion]’s not been blocked, it’s been referred for further work to be done on this issue by the appropriate department and cabinet member.

“This is important and clearly needs more consideration and work then just one speech made in council.”

Solihull Labour tweeted: “[It was] a case of trying to get something positive done, which in Solihull often takes time.”

Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/tax-tampons-condemned-solihull-meeting-15791726