CIVIC leaders insist they are already doing their bit to tackle poverty having introduced a Living Wage scheme in September last year.
Hartlepool Borough Council leader, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “The TUC quite rightly points out that local authorities can lead the way by becoming living wage employers themselves and Hartlepool Council is already doing just that – and much more.
“As part of its ongoing commitment to tackling inequality and poverty, in September 2013 the council implemented a Hartlepool Living Wage of £7.26 per hour for workers in its three lowest pay bands.
“As a result, more than 300 employees received a pay rise. This was an increase of over 12 per cent in the case of the lowest paid workers who were previously earning £6.45 per hour.
“By comparison, at that time two other Living Wage employers, Newcastle City Council and Manchester City Council were paying £7.20 per hour and £7.22 per hour respectively.
“The cost of introducing the Hartlepool Living Wage was funded through savings made from the councillors’ allowances budget when the way the council is run was changed.
“As well as being an investment in people and families, paying a Living Wage also makes sense in relation to the potential impact on the local economy, as those on low incomes are more likely to spend their money locally which can help to safeguard and create jobs in Hartlepool.
“Over 95 per cent of the employees in the council and schools who are benefiting from the Living Wage live in Hartlepool.
“The council isn’t stopping there. Last year it altered its procurement policy to actively encourage its suppliers to pay the Hartlepool Living Wage and it is now also looking at the possibility of setting up a consortium of business representatives to work together to ensure that everyone in Hartlepool receives a Living Wage.
“Furthermore, the council is currently in negotiations with the trade unions with the aim of implementing the National Living Wage (currently £7.65 per hour) from April next year, without increasing overall employee costs at a time when the council is facing major financial challenges.”