I was recently fortunate enough to be able to second Gedling Borough Council’s motion on the living wage
I’m delighted to
second this motion which demonstrates the Labour Group’s commitment to ensuring that the Council is a fair and enlightened employer.
I would like to start by congratulating the Cabinet in being in a position to be able to pay £250 to our lowest paid staff. This payment recognises the hard work that our employees do, especially in this difficult period.
In his report to Cabinet the Corporate Director highlights the numerous savings made through staff co-operation such as the £90,000 annually saved on travel costs, £300,000 annually saved by freezing posts and the collaboration with the unions to reprioritise the activities of the council and streamline management which resulted in over £160,000 of annual savings.
Local Government pay has been frozen since March 2010. In real terms we have seen a pay cut for every single employee. Since March 2010 RPI has risen 11.3% and CPI by 8%. Despite this I have yet to hear our employees complain.
Let’s look at the context. The Chancellor recognised that the pay freeze for public sector was particularly harsh for staff paid less than £21,000 and offered the scope to increase pay for these staff by £250 per year. 65% of our staff fall into this group. The Local Government Employers organisation was convinced that most councils could not make this payment and did not make a pay offer nationally. It’s a sign of a well run council that we can afford the payment.
Having spent some time below the line on the Nottingham Post website I’m sure the argument will come up that this is a waste of council taxpayers’ money. I would like to suggest that this is a fallacy. A large number of the employees of Gedling Borough Council live in the Borough and we can assume that some of the money we are awarding will come back into the Borough by our employees taking advantage of the two hours free parking to do some last minute shopping on our high streets.
There are some 88,000 electors in Gedling. If you divide the total amount of the payment by the number of electors it comes out as 90 pence each per year. Under the previous administration I recall that it was 60p for an hour’s parking in the Borough and we were told this was cheap.
But those who still think this is too expensive might want to have to look at the priorities shown by local conservative run councils. Rushcliffe Borough has just given £810,000 to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, a privately owned business. The Conservative Controlled County Council has also recently given Trent Bridge a grant of £900,000. This works out at £1.7 million of taxpayer’s money given to a private business.
But this one-off bonus is only the start. I’m delighted that the Council is committed to introducing the living wage for our employees as soon as possible and aiming to ensure Gedling becomes a living wage borough.
The Living Wage Foundation calculates the income that is needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living. For example, it calculates that a single person outside needs an income of £7.20 per hour (£16,800 per annum) and parents with two children £36.700 (£18,400 each) to have a minimum acceptable standard of living. Nationally some 20% of workers are paid below the living wage but for Gedling Borough it around 28% of our workforce. Paying such low wages is immoral and must be addressed.
I do not expect this to be a bone of contention, after all, all three of our political parties support raising the pay of low earners. During the General Election campaign in May 2010 David Cameron referred to the Living Wage as ‘An idea whose time has come’. Ed Miliband is committed to delivering a living wage as part of his programme to give everyone a stake in the economy and promoting growth.
Some of the biggest commercial firms such as KPMG, Barclays have already signed up to the living wage. Even firms with large numbers of low paid employers like Intercontinental Hotels have signed up. Firms like these wouldn’t do so if they thought it would damage their businesses. Many public sector employers such as the Greater London Authority, where Boris Johnson has carried on the work of Ken Livingstone, the devolved administrations and many large local councils are signed up. . The DWP has announced that it will actually introduce the living wage for its low paid cleaners and catering staff, while the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice have given indications that they might soon follow suit.
The Living Wage has benefits – employers who have implemented it believe that the Living Wage enhances the quality of the work of their staff, and reduces absenteeism. Two thirds of employers reported a significant impact on recruitment and retention within their organisation, as well as saving money by reducing staff turnover and increasing loyalty.
We know that there is a growing gap between rich and poor and that the current Government’s austerity policies are making this worse. Too many people are having to do more than one low paid job and are still dependent on in-work benefits if they and their families are to survive. Even in areas as relatively wealthy as Gedling we are seeing the obscenity of people depending on food banks.
I don’t know about Councillor Barnfather but I don’t feel particularly merry knowing that some of our citizens are relying on charity in order to be able to eat. Or having to chose between food and fuel to heat their house.
If we are to make progress as a nation then a fair pay for a fair day’s work has to be part of the basic deal.
This is something we must lead on, if we as a council are not paying a decent, living wage to our employees then what right do we have to expect businesses in Gedling to do the same. And more shame on us if we don’t pass this motion and make sure we do end up as a living wage council as soon as possible for both our in-house and contracted-out staff.