Durham County Council will vote on a proposal by Lib Dem councillors to pay the living wage at July’s Full Council meeting.
Lib Dem councillors will call for a named vote on the proposals so that residents across the County will be able to “hold their councillor to account for their actions”.
Durham’s unitary authority is spending over £440 million each year, and the cost to introduce the living wage of £7.65 an hour would be just £500,000, a tiny fraction of the overall budget of the council.
The Council currently has over £100m in reserves.
Framwellgate Moor and Newton Hall Councillor Mark Wilkes, who will propose the change. says:
“We have waited a year since supporting a study into the introduction of the living wage. It’s long enough to wait. This council has over £100 million pounds in reserves, and for the next couple of years it can use less than one percent of these to pay staff a proper salary. This will give the Council time to find the efficiencies needed to cover the cost.”
Last Thursday, staff held a one day strike over pay at local authorities up and down the country including in Durham. At many authorities staff are already paid the living wage, but some local authority staff, according to unions, are still being paid as little as £6.75 an hour. The living wage is set each year by an independent body and for areas outside London it is currently £7.65 an hour. Unions have long demanded the living wage should be paid as an absolute minimum. Many private companies now also pay the living wage, with international company Nestle one of the most recent to announce its support. But whilst the Labour Party appears to have decided that the living wage should be part of its policy, locally Durham’s Labour-run council has so far failed to act to increase the pay of its lowest paid workers.
Lib Dem Councillor Richard Ormerod (Elvet and Gilesgate) says of this:
“The Labour Party talks about being for the low paid, but when it comes to acouncil they run, they have not stepped up to the mark. Low paid staff can’t wait any longer.”
Cllr Wilkes added:
“As one of the biggest employers in the North East, Durham County Council can send out a message to all employers that they should be paying the living wage. But to do that it must show that it is doing so itself.”
Councillor Amanda Hopgood, Lib Dem group leader says the Lib Dems will call for a named vote at full council on Wednesday 23rd July saying:
“We can’t continue to pay people less than the cost to live. When some senior officers are earning £140,000 a year and the Chief Exec is paid over £200,000 it is morally unacceptable to refuse to pay hard working staff the living wage. “Every councillor will have their vote recorded so residents know exactly what they stand for.”
The Liberal Democrats nationally have secured income tax cuts of £800 forthe lowest paid in the Coalition Government. They want to go further with a target of no one on the minimum wage paying income tax. The planned council vote also includes a call on government to increase the minimum wage (currently £6.31) to the level of the living wage as soon as possible. Full Council meetings are open to the public and start at 10am.
MOTION TO COUNCIL
Durham County Council resolves
a) to become a Living Wage Employer at the earliest possible opportunity and no later than the start of the next financial year,
b) to use these positive steps to promote the introduction of the Living Wage for all County Durham employees in both the public and private sector,and
c) to urge the government to increase the minimum wage to the level of the living wage as soon as is practicable.