‘Resign’ call to councillor

Angie Wilcox.
Angie Wilcox.

CALLS have been made for a Hartlepool councillor to resign after the charity she manages was ordered to pay nearly £9,000 to a former cleaner who worked for nearly three years on less than minimum wage.

Labour councillor Angie Wilcox is the manager of Manor Residents’ Association but the charity’s actions were labelled “outrageous” by a judge after it was ordered to pay £8,805 to Linda Gooding at a tribunal.

CALL FOR INVESTIGATION: Councillors Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves

CALL FOR INVESTIGATION: Councillors Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves

Now councillors Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves, who resigned from the Labour Group earlier this month in a row over public questions, have called on Coun Wilcox to resign.

But the Manor House councillor says she has nothing to resign for.

Couns Brash and Hargreaves, who refer to themselves as Independent Labour but are classed as independent on the council website, have also written to Mayor Stuart Drummond and Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Dave Stubbs calling for a “full investigation” into the salaries of employees at the charity.

The tribunal heard how Mrs Gooding, 56, worked 37 hours a week for the charity for just £5.40 an hour – under the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour – and for the last seven weeks in the job received her wages either late or not at all.

She never once saw a contract of employment in her 32 months at the charity, from February 2010 to December last year, and the last payslip she received was in May 2010.

The calls come on the same day the Government announced the national minimum wage is to increase by 12p an hour from October.

Coun Brash, who described the minimum wage as one of the last Labour Government’s “greatest achievements,” added: “For a Labour councillor to fail to pay the minimum wage to one of her own staff is completely unforgivable and I do not see how she can continue in her role.

“She has undermined everything a Labour Party member and councillor is supposed to stand for.”

Coun Hargreaves added: “Last month Coun Wilcox stood on the steps of the Civic Centre and rightly criticised the Government for not supporting low income families over the bedroom tax, yet here she is doing the exact same thing by breaking the law and not paying the minimum wage.

“It is hypocrisy of the worst kind.”

Coun Hargreaves added: “As a local authority we have poured a considerable amount of public money into this organisation and I believe that it does provide much-needed and valued services to people in Owton Manor.

“However, we have a responsibility to ensure that hard-working people in our town are not exploited and that the minimum wage is paid in every organisation that we contract with, in accordance with the law of the land.”

Coun Brash and Hargreaves said it would be “prudent” to carry out an investigation, especially given the council is considering introducing a “living wage”.

A council spokesman said: “The council has recently received information relating to Manor Residents’ Association which it will consider before determining an appropriate course of action.”

Coun Wilcox, who said an appeal is being lodged, refused to comment on the tribunal result but added: “As far as resigning is concerned, I have nothing to resign for.”

Labour Group leader, councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “The party would never advocate a paid worker in the town being paid less than the minimum wage.

“It is an organisation that has been taken to tribunal, not an individual, and as far as I’m aware is subject to an appeal. But for Coun Brash and Coun Hargreaves, two individuals who could not uphold the minimum standards expected of them as Labour councillors, to level this criticism at other members is hypocritical.”

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