Lewisham councillors have backed a motion to set a formal parental leave scheme for members after the birth or adoption of a baby.

The authority does not have a formal scheme for councillors, but members have still been able to get their allowances until they return to their duties.

The backed proposal would see all members getting the full basic allowance of £9,812 – which all councillors get – as well as any special responsibility allowance if they chair a committee.

Cllr Sophie Davis, who introduced the motion, said childcare was a barrier to women entering local politics.

Only seven per cent of councils have a maternity policy in place, she said.

“New data following the 2019 local elections finds that women make up just 35 per cent of councillors across England and 96 per cent of councils are male dominated. One of the key barriers to women becoming and remaining councillors is childcare,” she explained.

“Of course it isn’t just women who take on childcare responsibilities and I am really pleased that this report enables all councillors to take parental leave.”

She said women in decision-making roles often brought more understanding to issues which impact women, with her experience as a parent helping her to be a better councillor.

“We know that women are more likely to rely on council services and often make up a high proportion  of the council workforce.

“We also know that having women involved in decision making, makes a difference.

“As colleagues know shortly after being elected for Forest Hill, I gave birth to my daughter Ella. Over the last year I’ve become much more aware of the challenges that many working parents face, from the lack of affordable childcare, to navigating public transport and a narrow pavement with a buggy…and a general work culture that isn’t designed to enable you to also look after a child,” she said.

The authority’s paternity scheme allows for two week’s leave during which formal arrangements won’t be needed, council documents explain.

Now the scheme has been backed by the full council, a meeting of the Constitutional Working Party is expected to be held in early October to consider amending the council’s constitution to include the new leave scheme.

As part of the proposals, a replacement chairing a committee chairing will be paid on a pro rata basis. Councillors can only claim one special responsibility allowance, so if they are already receiving an allowance this won’t cost the council more.