New mum councillor in Milton Keynes calls for parental leave and proxy voting

A new mum councillor is calling for councils to be dragged into the 21st century to allow parents to bring up their children and to carry on their representative roles.

Councillor Alice Jenkins (Cons, Danesborough and Walton) has two children, including Freddie, who was born 11 weeks ago, and she has proposed that Milton Keynes Council develop a parental leave policy.

Cllr Jenkins, left, with baby Freddie at the election count in May

Cllr Jenkins, left, with baby Freddie at the election count in May

Cllr Jenkins, whose motion is due to be discussed at full council on Wednesday, said: “This motion isn’t about me or my kids, that ship has sailed. This is about helping people in the future.

“I only missed one meeting, but I have a supportive family and there are many important issues in my ward and I wanted residents to have a voice through me.

“These institutions need to be brought into the 21st Century. We need to appeal to as many people as we can to become councillors. It is difficult to be a parent and a councillor because meetings are held at 5.30pm, 6.30pm or 7pm, which is the kids’ bedtime.”

She added: “With any other job in the country, you would have maternity or paternity leave. Even Parliament is going that way and if they are, why can’t we find a way?”

Cllr Jenkins says there is cross-party agreement on the issue, and her motion to full council would see a working group set up to develop a parental leave policy.

She is also calling on the council’s group leaders, Labour’s Pete Marland, Lib Dem Douglas McCall, and Alex Walker of the Conservatives to also raise the need for proxy voting with the Local Government Association.

Cllr Jenkins’ motion says that research by the Fawcett Society in 2017 showed that only 4 per cent of councils in England and Wales had parental leave policies for councillors. In MK, more than 10 per cent of councillors has had children in the past four years, including her and Labour’s Hannah O’Neill.

The motion adds: “As Parliament looks to introduce maternity leave for MPs and the ability for MPs to have proxy votes if an MP is seriously ill or on paternity/maternity leave, that councils should be looking to do the same thing.

“The role of a councillor should be open to all, regardless of their background, and that introducing a parental leave policy is a step towards encouraging a wider range of people to become councillors.

“Parental leave must apply to parents regardless of their gender, and that it should also cover adoption leave to support those parents who choose to adopt.”