2 December 2015
This Council notes that on Wednesday 28 May 2014, a motion concerning ambulance response times was brought to this chamber and received unanimous cross-party support.
This Council is still increasingly concerned about the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust's (SWASFT) continued failure to meet their 75% target in responding to the most urgent calls within 8 minutes.
This Council acknowledges that the issue of ambulance performance is being monitored by both the Council's Health and Care Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) and the South Western Ambulance Service Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, but wants to see once again significant improvement in the response times in those districts that are failing to reach the 75% target.
This Council therefore asks both the Leader and the Chief Executive to write to the CEO of SWASFT noting the letter written back in May 2014 and asking for specific actions which will take place so that response times are significantly improved especially in the following four districts - Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds, Tewkesbury and Stroud.
This Council also requests that the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee explores the option of creating a county-wide ambulance service rather than a regional one, with recommendations produced for full Council to debate.
Please see the response from SWASFT below:
This Council believes that this tax has no place in our modern society.
This Council recognises that the UK Government have no power to reduce the VAT on these products any further, but this Council does note that Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament can work with the European Commission and other Member States to change this.
This Council welcomes the decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to campaign for the EU to change the law in this area, and his commitment, until that happens, for all funds raised by the tax to be used to support women's charities.
This Council requests that the Leader of the Council writes to all MEPs in the South West and Gibraltar, Gloucestershire's six MPs, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP, welcoming this change and urging them to negotiate with European representatives to reduce the VAT charge to 0% on all female sanitary products. The Council also requests the Leader to write to the European Commission, calling on them to change their policy and allow zero rating of female sanitary products.
The Council also requests that the Leader of the Council share any responses from Government with members.
Dear Mr Hawthorne,
On behalf of Commissioner Moscovici I hereby attach his reply to your letter of 6 January to Commissioner Jourová.
This is an electronic advance copy, the original will follow by regular post. Letter from Cecilia Sena Da Silva
Cecilia Sena Da Silva
Assistant Cabinet Moscovici
17 February 2016 Our Ref: CM/KW/GLOU01001/01160124
Thank you very much for sending me the letter from Cllr Hawthorne to Commissioner Jourova regarding VAT charged on women's sanitary products. Please accept my apologies for not responding earlier.
I would be grateful if you could pass on this email to Councillor Hawthorne.
I entirely agree that the sale of sanitary products should be exempt under VAT legislation.
As you know the UK has three rates of VAT: the basic rate (currently 20%), the zero rate; and the reduced rate of 5%, used in a limited number of cases. Tampons and other sanitary products are currently classified using the 5% reduced rate.
Previously, sanitary products had been taxed at the basic rate (then 17.5%). Following a successful campaign led by the former Labour MP, Dawn Primarolo, the Labour government reclassified them to 5% in 2000.
Under EU law, certain products and services, such as the provision of medical care, are exempt from VAT. Decisions about VAT coverage and rates taken by Member States are governed by these rules. This means new exemptions cannot be introduced by Member States unilaterally.
Labour MEPs have written to the European Commission asking if it plans to amend the VAT directive to make women's sanitary products exempt. Labour's spokesperson for gender equality in Europe, Mary Honeyball MEP, has already raised the issue in the Committee on women's rights and gender equality and directly with Vĕra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
The European Parliament recently adopted a report on the EU Strategy for equality between women and men post-2015. This report sets out the Parliament's position on the forthcoming EU gender equality strategy. Although no specific mention of VAT charged on women's sanitary products was made, the report stressed the importance of monitoring the gender effects of taxation on women and families more generally.
In response to a recent Parliamentary Question the European Commissioner said: "As part of its upcoming work on a definitive VAT regime based on the destination principle, the Commission will assess the functioning and possible improvements to the system of reduced rates."
Labour MEPs will push for the tampon tax to be included as part of that review.
I hope my response has been useful. Please get in touch if you have any further questions or concerns.
With best wishes
Labour MEP for the South West and Gibraltar
Twitter @ClareMoodyMEP Facebook: ClareMoodyMEP