COUNCILLORS have voted to do more to tackle the issue of “period poverty” in the district following a heated debate in Council chambers.

Period Poverty refers to the issue of affordability of sanitary products, and recent studies have found that one in ten teenage girls has been unable to afford tampons or sanitary towels in their life.

At a meeting of the full Council on Tuesday evening, Councillor Sarah Ferriby (Lab, Wyke) put forward a motion calling for the Council to research the extent of the issue in Bradford, and work with schools and charities to make sure women and girls have access to sanitary products.

Some councillors said they had heard of girls in the district using toilet paper, as they were unable to afford sanitary products.

But one councillor claimed the issue had been overblown, and questioned whether it should be something the Council devotes resources to.

Cllr Ferriby said: “I never though I’d be standing here in 2018 talking about period poverty, but here we are, talking about girls being unable to afford sanitary products.

“These are essential items for women. It is something we have no control of, for 40 or 50 years we will have periods.

“As a compassionate local authority it is right that we act.

“We need to break down the embarrassment about the human body. It is a sad situation that we have girls missing school. This isn’t just a myth or scare story, this is reality. Some girls are using loo roll and some have to decide between buying lunch or sanitary products. It can’t be right in this day and age.”

Her motion called for the Council to carry out more detailed research to identify the causes and extent of the issue in Bradford, work with schools, GPs, charity the Red Box project and foodbanks to tackle the issue, and call for the government to drop VAT from sanitary products.

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) said the issue was not a new one, but one that had risen up the public agenda in recent years. She said: “I have heard of women who get thrush because they are using toilet paper. It is great we are talking about this, but I’m not sure we can do enough to tackle the issue.”

Councillor Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) put forward a rival motion, which said there had been “significant misinformation” over the issue, and that products did not cost nearly as much has had been made out.

She said: “I don’t think it is necessary for a council to spend its resources on collecting information that is already available. Recent research has shown that period poverty does not have a significant impact on school attendance.

“Parents don’t take children to free dental check ups, they don’t take them to eye tests, not having access to sanitary products might be more of a case of being a child welfare issue that has to be looked into.

“I’ve heard claims from MPs that periods cost women £500 a year, but sanitary products can cost just a few pence.”

She said products could cost women as little as £10 a year.

Members of the Labour party shouted out, asking where cheap products were available. She responded: “Tesco sells them for about 23 pence for 10 pads.

“There is only five per cent VAT on sanitary products, and the government has pledged to remove VAT from sanitary products once we leave the EU.”

Councillor Michelle Swallow (Lab, Clayton and Fairweather Green) responded angrily to Cllr Davies’ claims, saying: “I can’t believe what Cllr Davies dared to say in this chamber. I can’t believe you want to penalise people, raising child welfare concerns. People are struggling to feed their families. There isn’t a parent out there who doesn’t want to provide for their children. There is not one person who doesn’t want their daughter or mother gets through the month with what she needs.

“Every woman is different, and every month is different. Women aren’t only spending £10 a year on sanitary products.”

The Council then voted to support the motion, with an amendment proposed by Cllr Sunderland that a report on the issue go before the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee.