Gillian Martin MSP has welcomed new rules to ensure local councillors are treated fairly and equally, helping more people to stand for local office.
The Scottish Government, working with local authorities body COSLA, has amended regulations on councillors’ pay to increase the flexibility local authorities have when granting councillors paid leave of absence, and to remove barriers which have made it harder for some people to take on senior elected roles.
Aberdeenshire MSP Gillian Martin had been critical of Aberdeenshire Council’s “outrageous” arrangements which meant local councillor Gwyneth Petrie faced uncertainty if she would receive paid maternity leave after the birth of her son.
In her campaign, Ms Martin urged local authorities to “radically rethink” their family policies in line with COSLA guidelines. After the Aberdeenshire Council administration took no action in putting policy in place in the aftermath of a debate on Ms Petrie’s situation in the council chamber, Ms Martin wrote to the Scottish Government asking to them to improve regulations and introduce stronger policies that would make it easier for local authorities to support councillors who take family leave.
Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP, said
I am delighted that the Scottish Government have adopted stronger policies for local councillors looking to take family leave.
I believe wholeheartedly that councillors should be entitled to paid family leave and I am pleased that despite Aberdeenshire Council’s current approach to family leave which has failed to include a maternity leave policy, the SNP Government have intervened.
This is a positive step as we seek to see a change in how elected officials are treated at work. This intervention will mean that one more barrier comes down as we try to widen the talent pool of those who represent us to include more women and those with growing families.
Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart said
Anyone should be able to be a councillor. By making it easier for councillors to get paid leave of absence, we hope to encourage a wider range of people to seek election, including more women and younger people so that councils can better reflect the society we live in.
COSLA President and Aberdeenshire Councillor, Alison Evison said
We welcome these amendments to legislation which will give greater flexibility to councils to pay any Councillor requiring leave appropriately.
The role of being a councillor and having the privilege of representing your community should be open to all, but previously the legislation has meant that those requiring maternity, paternity, adoption or any other leave whilst in office may have been financially disadvantaged. Some people may have been unable to stand for election in the first place as a result and others may have had to stand down from office.
We hope that this enables more individuals to consider standing for or staying in local government