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We'll give staff pay rise, say council
SCORES of council workers in Worcester are in line for pay rises that could see their hourly rates swell by as much as 20 per cent, it has emerged.
The city council’s Labour leadership has also raised the stakes by making a heartfelt appeal for private companies to do exactly the same.
The authority has revealed it wants all staff to get the Living Wage - an independently-calculated rate which currently stands at £7.45.
The measure would benefit at least 58 employees including cleaners, low-paid clerks, a handful of apprentices and seasonal staff working on activity clubs during the summer and Easter breaks.
At the moment the worst-paid workers get at least £6.19 an hour, the legally-binding minimum wage, but there have long been concerns it is not enough to live on.
The move is the first big policy announcement by the new administration since taking over in May.
It would cost taxpayers around £24,000, and if approved by full council in September will launch from January.
The intention is to review it after 12 months, as the Living Wage normally rises on a yearly basis based on the view of a panel of academics.
It comes just months after the idea collapsed due to fears it would cause unrest among workers currently earning just over £7.45 an hour who face pay freezes.
The old Conservative administration decided to largely abandon the idea, especially with the finances under so much pressure.
At the time, managing director Duncan Sharkey was known to be sceptical, suggesting it could cause problems due to the complicated banding structure at the authority.
Despite that, it has been adopted by scores of councils and companies nationwide, notably Birmingham City Council, which is a huge employer and has money concerns of its own.
Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance, said: “The Living Wage is increasingly seen as the minimum level that can be paid to people so that they can make ends meet, so I am very keen council sets a good example by paying our staff at this level.
“My hope is that other local employers will follow suit.
“This would be good news for the whole of Worcester, as it would mean more people have money to spend in our local economy.”
The policy will be debated during a meeting of the Performance Management and Budget Scrutiny Committee next month, ahead of a vote at full council on Tuesday September 24.
Councillor Liz Smith, Lib Dem group leader, who sits in the cabinet alongside Labour politicians, said: “It would be a very good deal for people on low incomes - the aim is to do it for one year first and then see how we are fixed.”
The Living Wage is expected to rise to £7.82 a hour from November, and if so would give the lowest paid workers an even bigger boost.
WHAT BUSINESS LEADERS SAY
BUSINESSES say they like the idea of adopting the Living Wage - even if they would find it difficult to do so in the current economic climate.
Greg Smith, creative director at Worcester-based F8 creates, in St Mary’s Street, said: “We completely agree with it as a concept - the Living Wage is a good idea. “We’ve got apprentices here who get below that and ideally we’d like to pay them that amount as a minimum.
“It’s not easy though - we’ve been going for three years and one apprentice is five or six months in, in their case there’s no way we could afford it.”
Roger Underhill, who runs Kestrel Carpet & Upholstery in Worcester, said: “We’ve been going for over 25 years and if we took someone on, it wouldn’t be on those rates - it would be too difficult.”
Meanwhile Councillor Marc Bayliss, Tory deputy group leader, has blasted the Labour Party by calling it “posturing”.
“This will benefit 58 people, but what about the 99,000 who live in Worcester who pay their council tax,” he said.
“They have been in power 100 days and this is the best they can do - how about policies which benefit the whole city?
"They appear to be going against professional officer advice on this too.
“£24,000 is half the income from the council tax rise they are planning - it’s just posturing.”
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