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26th Jun, 2022

County Tories reject opposition's Real Living Wage calls

Rob George 2nd Mar, 2022

HOPES of a pay rise for several hundred staff at Worcestershire County Council were thwarted after a cross-party motion was rejected by Conservative councillors.

Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, members of the self-titled unity group at County Hall, had called for the ruling Tory administration to consider paying all staff the Real Living Wage.

Opposition councillors called for the county council to prepare a report on the feasibility of paying all employees a wage of at least £9.90 per hout.

A Freedom of Information request in 2021 identified there were at least 400 directly-employed WCC staff who are paid below £9.90 per hour, the rate which the Living Wage Foundation determines is necessary to support a basic standard of living.

The figure does not include schools, casual workers, apprentices or staff at Worcestershire Children First.

Labour’s Coun Lynn Denham spearheaded the calls for the pay rise.

Speaking after the motion was rejected, the Worcester councillor labelled the thumbs down as ‘bitterly disappointing news’.

“As I said in the council chamber, the benefits of paying the real living wage are well known,” she said.

“Health and well-being, staff retention and productivity all improve when staff are paid enough to live on, and the local economy benefits from staff’s increased spending power.

“To refuse to even consider paying WCC staff the real living wage is not just spiteful, it’s short-sighted,” she said.

In response, Coun Marc Bayliss pointed out in Labour’s 11 years in power from 1999 the party raised the minimum wage bv £2.33 compared to the raise of £3.57 in the Conservative’s current 12 years in power.

“Whilst we might think it’s a jolly good thing to do, it would come at a cost as we’d have to put Council Tax up further,” he said.

“We think we should not just focus on the staff here but the 600,000 people of Worcestershire who send us here and for whom we are there to govern.

“This is not the priority at this time, the priority is the people out there who want us to get on with the job,” Coun Bayliss added.

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