Inequality highlighted on carer allowances this Carers Rights Day
On Carers Rights Day, Thursday 23rd November, campaigners are urging the Government to end an inequality on carer allowances ahead of next May’s local elections.
Councils, Mayors, Council Leaders, a national charity, and a baroness are among the signatories of an open letter which draws attention to what is described as ‘a bizarre inequality’ at local government level.
‘A bizarre inequality exists that makes it difficult for carers to represent their communities as councillors on parish and town councils’, says Jane Biscombe, Town Clerk at Weymouth Town Council.
She is joining forces with other councils in Corsham, Dunstable, Falmouth, Newport Pagnell, Sevenoaks, Stroud, Swanage and Witney, national charity Carers UK, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Mayors and Council Leaders to shine a light on this inequality which they hope the current Government will take action on.
In England, borough, district, county, and unitary councillors can all claim expenses to support the cost of childcare or care for a relative or someone they live with, while they’re carrying out council duties. But town and parish councillors can’t.
Town Clerk Jane Biscombe added: “Government legislation* doesn’t allow councils at this tier of local government to pay these expenses. A lack of effective support can make it impossible for carers to juggle caring responsibilities with work and other commitments, let alone take on the role of a councillor. As carers often feel invisible, overlooked, and discriminated against, this legislation is denying them a voice. This is unfair, and it’s undemocratic.
“All we ask is that just five words ‘and Parish and Town Councils’ are added to the legislation. This small but significant change would mean so much to carers who could consider standing as a councillor next May, or even reconsider stepping down because they know there will be more support in place to carry out this vital community role. Is that too much to ask to ensure equality and respect for carers up and down the country?”
Baroness Scott of Needham Market, President, National Association of Local Councils, said: “It simply cannot be right that unlike every other councillor in England and Wales, parish and town councillors are specifically excluded from being able to access help with childcare costs to attend meetings and perform their duties.
“The National Association of Local Councils has long called for an end to this inequality and to make it easier, not harder, for people from a wide range of backgrounds to get involved in their communities as parish and town councillors.
“I have spoken out strongly on this issue in Parliament and will continue to do so at every opportunity I get. It is simply time to right this wrong, to level up local democracy, and to give those thousands of parish and town councillors who have caring responsibilities just a little bit of much needed help to perform their important civic role.”
In November 2019 Weymouth Town Council issued a challenge to the Government to end this inequality, under the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA). Carers are still waiting for a resolution some four years later.
Signatories of the open letter said: “We call on the Government to change the legislation now so that many more carers can consider standing as candidates in next May’s local elections.”
Full list of signatories include:
Baroness Scott of Needham Market, President, National Association of Local Councils
Cllr Kate Wheller, Mayor of Weymouth
Jane Biscombe, Town Clerk, Weymouth Town Council
Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy, Carers UK charity
Adam Keppel-Green, Chair and Director – North, Society of Local Council Clerks
Cllr Kirstie Edwards, Mayor of Falmouth Town Council
Cllr Liz Jones, Mayor of Dunstable
Cllr Helen Belcher, OBE, Chair of Corsham Town Council
Cllr Tina Foster, Mayor, Swanage Town Council
Shar Roselman, Town Clerk, Newport Pagnell Town Council
Cllr Claire Shea, Mayor, Sevenoaks Town Council
Cllr Ruth Smith, Leader, Witney Town Council
Cllr Stella Parkes, Mayor, Stroud Town Council
Cllr Thomas Day, Mayor of Ware Town Council
Sheridan Jacklin‑Edward, Town Clerk, Henley Town Council
Carl Cheevers, Town Clerk, Harpenden Town Council
Ian Morris, Chief Officer, Peterlee Town Council
Lance Allan BSc, Town Clerk, Trowbridge Town Council
Notes to Editors
* Legislation which prevents parish and town councils in England from paying an allowance for childcare or dependent’s care expenses is under The Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003/1021 and The Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) (Amendments) Regulations 2004/2596.
For interview requests, contact Weymouth Town Council communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01305 239310.