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Living wage plan moves close despite opposition
PLANS to give Worcester City Council’s lowest paid workers a 20 per cent rise have moved a step closer.
A key committee panel has agreed to back the idea of giving all staff the ‘living wage’, currently standing at £7.45 an hour, despite Conservative councillors trying to scupper the plan.
During a meeting at the Guildhall, Tory councillors Roger Knight and Lucy Hodgson voted against it, citing the impact on the budget among their concerns.
But, after support from Labour backbenchers and Liberal Democrat councillor Ken Carpenter, the policy was backed. It will now go to full council on Tuesday, September 24, and if voted through there will come into force from January.
Under the deal, 58 council staff would benefit from a pay increase, including clerical workers, cleaners and part-time workers who help out with fun clubs during school holidays.
During a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee, Coun Knight said: “Surely we should be putting our efforts into lobbying the Government to introduce a minimum wage which is enough for people to live on?
“I don’t agree with this, I think it’s the wrong way to go about it.
“We should be asking full council to pass a motion asking the Government to up the minimum wage instead.”
Coun Hodgson said she shared his concerns, but added she was worried about the costs.
A report before the committee said it would require £24,000 of funding in 2014/15, possibly rising to £75,000 in future years.
She said: “What other services will suffer to pay for this, and where will the funding come from?
“I am also concerned about the impact it will have on staff earning just above this level of pay.”
Other politicians backed the idea, which is one of the first major policies introduced by the new Labour leadership.
Coun Paul Denham said: “There is a moral incentive to pay the living wage, other councils have done it and I don’t see why we shouldn’t.
“The consequences of not paying it will put an even greater strain on the public purse. A low-wage economy is not in the interests of the city.”
Fellow Labour councillor Jo Hodges said: “I’d like to think everyone around this table thinks it’s morally and ethically the right thing to do to pay the living wage, which by its very definition is only just enough to live on.”
If accepted by full council, the plan will be reviewed after one year.
The living wage is expected to rise to £7.82 an hour in November.
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