CHANGES are needed to make politics more accessible to women, it is claimed.

Figures from the Fawcett Society revealed women make up only about one in four councillors in south Essex.

A lack of maternity policies and a male dominated set up have been blamed.

In Southend, Labour Councillor Anne Jones, said democracy “has to be more accessible” and her party, which is leading a coalition administration, is looking at the possibility of maternity policies that would allow for time off following the birth of a child.

She said: “Southend Council does not have a maternity policy for elected councillors and the Labour Group has been actively looking at councils in London that do have these kinds of policies and as a result have greater representation.

“People have to be facilitated and have the right environment to put themselves forward.

“We do have a woman leading the town as a chief executive, there are also a lot of women in leading roles at NHS trusts. Women are leading in a lot of areas and I think we could learn from that.”

Labour is also leading an alliance party in Basildon and councillor Adele Brown said the council is looking at the issue.

She said: “The House of Commons recently brought in proxy voting – where absent MPs who have just had a child can cast a vote through a colleague.

“I think it would be important to have something like this at Basildon Council. Introducing a maternity policy is also important. The way things are done in the House of Commons is not perfect, but it would be beneficial if these policies were reflected here.”

Basildon Tory councillor Terri Sargent added: “I think more women need to be made aware of the upside of being in politics. It is so male dominated that I think that it puts ladies off from standing but now politics is becoming so much more vocal with things like Brexit that more people are aware of how local democracy works and that is a good thing.”

According to the equalities charity the Fawcett Society Castle Point Council has eight female councillors out of 41 with 11 out of 39 in Rochford, 11 out of 42 in Basildon, 14 out of 51 in Southend and 16 out of 49 in Thurrock.

Charity chief executive Sam Smethers said: “Local government has a disproportionate impact on women’s lives so it particularly needs to have women’s voices heard.”