NEW parents who are councillors should get time off, the leader of West Berkshire Council has said. 

Currently, 96 per cent of councils across England do not have a formal parental leave policy for councillors. 

Councillor Lynne Doherty (Con, Newbury Speen), the leader of the council, said: “The lack of such a policy may deter new or prospective parents, and particularly women, in standing for election in the first place and, if they are elected, could be a barrier to their fulfilling their role.”

She made the comments in submitting a motion to the full council, which will meet on September 12. Councillors will then vote on whether to introduce a parental leave policy. 

Cllr Doherty said: “There is at present no right to parental leave for those in elected public office, but we should do all we can to encourage as wide as possible a range of candidates to stand for election. 

“Improved provision for new parents should contribute towards increasing the diversity of experience, age and background of local authority councillors.

“It should also assist with retaining experienced councillors – particularly women – and making public office more accessible to individuals who might otherwise feel excluded from it.”

Fewer than 14 per cent of councillors in West Berkshire are female: just six out of 43. 

MPs are also not entitled to maternity leave. In June, Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, said she was ‘forced to choose between being an MP and a mum’.

Ms Creasy called for parliament to introduce maternity leave for MPs. She said: “Prejudices and unhelpful tropes about motherhood suffocate female representatives.”