Living Wage bid is backed

Christopher Akers-Belcher
Christopher Akers-Belcher

HUNDREDS of low paid council employees are to receive a wage rise after councillors unanimously agreed plans to introduce the Living Wage.

Members gave their full support at a full council meeting and it means 405 employees will see their pay rise from £6.45 to £7.26 an hour from this month.

The plans, which will cost £90,000 this year, are being funded from savings after the mayoral system was scrapped in favour of the committee system.

The proposals had already got the backing of the finance and policy committee and it was voted through unanimously by the full council at a meeting at the Civic Centre.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, presented the report and said the savings made from moving from the mayoral system to a new form of governance means that they were are able to introduce the Hartlepool Living Wage.

He said: “We fully appreciate that the council is facing a difficult financial future and that this money could have been put towards the overall budget deficit.

“But this will help hundreds of the council’s lowest paid employees.”

Conservative group leader, Ray Wells, said they backed the plans and said he hoped the time came soon that all low paid workers could benefit from the Living Wage and not just those working for the local authority.

Councillor Jonathan Brash, who refers to himself as independent Labour but is classed as independent by the council, said it was important to stress that the Living Wage is just for council employees.

He called on the council to set up a consortium, led by the local authority, to meet with representatives from the private sector to see if they can work together to introduce the Living Wage for everyone.

Coun Brash said: “Let’s get together and see if we can push for such a thing and be pioneers.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said he agreed with Coun Brash and was happy to support that.

A report by the council chief executive Dave Stubbs said Living Wage employers report improved morale, lower turn over of staff and less time off sick.

Those that stand to benefit include 351 council workers and 54 non-teaching school employees.

Also, that lower paid employees are more likely to be claiming benefits and any increase in their pay may reduce the amount of benefit they receive which will create a saving on the council’s benefits budget.

The report added that due to the tapering nature of some benefits, it is unlikely employees will be worse off as a result of receiving a Living Wage.

The Living Wage is a national campaign set up in 2011 and run by the Living Wage Foundation to address poverty.

It encourages businesses and councils to sign up to discretionary national Living Wage of £7.45 an hour, or as close to it they can afford.

The full-year cost in future will be £155,000 a year.