A heated debate about period poverty has been called a political argument by a senior cabinet member.
On Wednesday, a motion was put before the council by Cllr Michael Lilley, asking members to support the Red Box Project, which campaigns to provide free sanitary products in schools across the Island (catch up here).
Red Box Project removed from motion
However, an amendment was passed that removed Red Box Project from the motion, and councillors agreed to support all similar initiatives.
Speaking after the meeting, cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Paul Brading, said:
“I do not like it when councillors try to make political gains out of our children. The debate went off on a tangent, and it went on for far too long.
“I think fundamentally we all agreed on the same principle.”
Disappointment from RBP IW founder
The founder of the Isle of Wight branch of the Red Box project, Katharine Spencer-Brown expressed her disappointment at the decision to remove the RBP from the motion.
Brading: Will be speaking to all schools
Cllr Brading said he was not referring to any particular councillor, but the debate as a whole.
He added he would be speaking to all schools on the Island to see what provisions they had for sanitary products.
Currently, 16 schools on the Island use the Red Box Project and three provide their own products:
“The motion could not be prescriptive, and say that all schools should use the Red Box Project.”
Brading to meet RBP
Cllr Brading said he would be meeting with Cllr Lilley and the Red Box Project, to see how the council could work with them to provide access to sanitary products in all schools.
“It’s about children, not politics.
“We will support any initiative that helps our children.”
Whitehouse: “Shamelessly grandstanding”
Cllr Chris Whitehouse, who put forward the amendment to the motion, said:
“I agree entirely with Cllr Brading.
“Cllr Lilley was shamelessly grandstanding to derive personal publicity from the charitable work of others and off the backs of children in our schools.
“Cllr Brading seconded my amendment which was gender neutral, inclusive of all our schools and the variety of different approaches, including Red Box, and accepted that much good work is already being done.”
Lilley: “Public now more aware of the charity”
Responding, Cllr Lilley said:
“I have no political affiliation so I was not trying to make any political gains.
“I particularly wanted to highlight the work of the Red Box Project within the motion.
“However, because of this the public are now more aware of the charity, and have had more schools signing up and more volunteers wanting to take part, so it has achieved that goal.”
Andre: “Unclear what Cllr Whitehouse’s true intention was”
Independent councillor, Cllr Debbie Andre, told OnTheWight,
“I am bitterly disappointed that Cllr Whitehouse saw fit to try to gain cheap political capital by putting in an amendment which effectively removed the Red Box Project from the motion. I first became aware of the RBP and their sterling work in raising awareness of sanitary product poverty through the Inspiring Women Group of which I am a founder member.
“I raised the point that in taking their name out of the motion, it then became ineffectual as it was their ‘brand’ that people could identify with and which would encourage them to engage with this issue that is prevalent on our Island.
“It’s unclear what Cllr Whitehouse’s true intention was in acting in this way, but I believe the effect of his actions has been both negative and derogatory to Island women of all ages, who he plainly has no understanding of or regard for.
“I fully support Cllr Lilley and voted against the amendment for this reason. I will continue to both support and promote the Red Box Project.”
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed