Under-fire councillor at centre of Hartlepool pay storm backs minimum wage motion

Coun Angie Wilcox
Coun Angie Wilcox

A COUNCILLOR at the centre of a pay storm has backed a motion condemning managers, directors and trustees of organisations who break the law and fail to pay the national minimum wage.

Hartlepool Borough Council is to introduce new guarantees that must be signed by any beneficiary of grant funding or commissioned contracts from the local authority after a motion was unanimously passed by councillors.

Coun Jonathan Brash proposed the motion and said it was “inspired” by Manor Residents’ Association (MRA), which is managed by Labour councillor Angie Wilcox, being forced to give a cleaner £9,000 for paying her less than the minimum wage.

Coun Wilcox, who voted in favour of the motion - is adamant the association has done nothing wrong and that case is subject to a review.

Coun Wilcox said: “I voted in favour of the motion because I agreed with it.

“Manor Residents’ Association has never paid below the national minimum wage and that will come out at the review hearing next month.”

It has also emerged the under-fire charity faces three new legal battles after more former employees launched proceedings around unfair dismissal and failure to provide itemised pay slips.

The motion states that if an organisation does not “live up” to the guarantees around pay then it will be reported to full council and a decision taken on the contract by councillors.

It read: “We, the council, condemn any responsible individual (be they manager, director or trustee) who fails to pay the National Minimum Wage.

“Such abuses are an affront to justice, both legal and moral, and those individuals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The original motion by Coun Brash, who refers to himself as Independent Labour but is classed as independent on the council website, called for the introduction of a National Minimum Wage Guarantee.

Coun Brash said: “It may be seen as tokenism, but it says clearly what we stand for.”

Coun Brash said the national minimum wage was already law but said “it does not always happen” and this would help boost “openness and transparency”.

Leader of the council Christopher Akers-Belcher welcomed the motion but proposed an amendment to include a Living Wage guarantee, if the council decides to introduce the scheme later this summer for its lowest paid employees.

It could see blue collar council workers’ hourly pay rise from £6.38 to £7.45.

The agreed motion included: “We propose the introduction of a Living Wage Guarantee, in line with our aim to be a Living Wage council.

“This must be signed by every beneficiary who receives a grant or commissioned contract by this council.

“Should the council fail to adopt the Living Wage all organisations would be required to sign a National Minimum Wage guarantee.”

The Living Wage campaign aims to address poverty.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the council recognises its “responsibility to protect all workers”, including those on Back to Work programmes.

Earlier this year, employment judge Andrew Buchanan described the actions of Manor Residents’ Association as “outrageous”, which led to calls for manager Coun Wilcox to resign as a Hartlepool borough councillor.

Linda Gooding, 56, was awarded £8,805 at an employment tribunal after she worked for the charity for three years on less than the minimum wage and repeatedly did not get paid but there is a review of Mrs Gooding’s case next month.

A second woman’s case was recently adjourned after the association suggested its response to legal proceedings had got lost after it was posted, while another two former employees have also launched claims against MRA.