The Labour Party is the
party of equality and seeks to build a society and world free from sexism and
misogyny. Labour has a strong record on progressing women’s rights and freedoms
that we can be proud of. We intend to advance progressive values of women’s
empowerment in Uttlesford to tackle gender equality in the district.
Uttlesford has an enormous gender pay gap. In 2018, male workers in Uttlesford earned 72% more than female workers, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. While this was slightly less than the Essex average, it was far higher than the still appalling 60% national average. Men in full-time employment earned 37% more than women, indicating that while higher levels of part-time employment explained a significant portion of the gender pay gap, women still fall well behind men in terms of earnings.
There are several reasons why women’s incomes are lower than men’s pay: direct discrimination that is illegal under equalities laws; the under-valuing of women’s competences and skills in which women doing the work of equal value are paid less; promotion rates; occupational segregation; stereotypes that influence young women’s choices of career; and, the gendered division of household labour in which women often have the greatest responsibility for childcare, acting as a barrier to full-time employment.
Women also bear the brunt of financial hardship, represent the largest number of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and are the overwhelming number of single parents. Often, these problems are interlinked, with a lack of economic independence preventing women from seeking help from domestic violence and the challenges of single parenthood making it difficult for women to realise their aspirations.
Many women want to go back to work after having children but find local childcare too expensive. Currently, parents who meet the qualifying rules may be able to get up to 85% of their childcare costs with a maximum of 85% of £760.42 per month for one child (£646.35) or £1,303.57 (£1,108.04) per month for two or more children.
Women in Uttlesford are not immune from these problems that afflict society, so the district council should look at how it can be part of the solution.
Uttlesford Labour would appoint a separate deputy cabinet
position to oversee Uttlesford’s equalities portfolio, which is currently held
by the deputy leader. They would examine how the council’s policies impact on
gender equality, as well as LGBT+ and ethnic and religious minorities in the
Uttlesford district council has a good track-record on equal
pay, but we should ensure that the same standards apply to companies working
for the local authority. We would ensure all contractors working for the
council can demonstrate they actively implement equal pay and anti-discrimination
In Uttlesford, average nursery costs are around £750 per month for children in full-time childcare, so the maximum that a Universal Credit claimant can receive in support is £637.50 for one child. This leaves parents needing to find £112.50 per month in costs, equating to over 14 hours work per month on the minimum wage. It amounts to an annual cost of £1,350, a cost that some low-income families would struggle to meet. Families with more than one child would be even worse off with a family with two children in childcare requiring an extra £392 per month, the equivalent of over £4,700 per annum.
High childcare costs often prompt women to delay going back to work, which undermines their long-term economic independence. We would partner with a local credit union to introduce an affordable childcare loan for local parents so that they can return to work without ending up out of pocket. Uttlesford could act as reinsurers, protecting credit unions from the risk of loan default to maintain their involvement. The council could also contribute towards the administrative costs of running the scheme as well as act as intermediary between claimants and the lender. A low-cost loan with a long repayment period would help local working families. We believe this innovative, yet common-sense approach should receive cross-party support at UDC.
The advantage of using credit unions as opposed to commercial insurers is that they emphasise best value for stakeholders, whereas commercial operations seek to maximise profits for shareholders and investors. A partnership between Uttlesford, a credit union and parents requiring childcare loans would emphasise meeting needs, as opposed to profit chasing.
non-performing loan rates are likely to be higher than the market average due
to the insecurity of work and low incomes, such a scheme would pay for itself
in the long-term by helping working parents to get back into work and raise
their income levels. Ultimately, this would reduce the welfare costs and create
a net benefit in terms of tax revenue.
Women and girls facing financial hardship can struggle to pay for sanitary products. Research has found that in the worst circumstances, girls are missing school and parents are resorting to stealing in order to provide for their daughters.
Over half of women who have experienced period poverty believe it has had a direct effect on their success, confidence and happiness.
Uttlesford Labour would ensure that all public toilets
in the district have dispensers for free sanitary products funded by the
council, so that women and girls who are in hardship do not have to live in
physical and emotional discomfort.