Door slammed shut on efforts to boost Portsmouth City Council salaries

Liberal Democrat Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Liberal Democrat Gerald Vernon-Jackson

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ATTEMPTS to secure a 60p-an-hour pay rise for council workers on low incomes have been turned down.

Portsmouth Lib Dem members urged the city’s employment committee to increase the hourly rate from £7.85 – adopted by the panel in 2014 – to £8.45.

It’s gesture politics. There aren’t huge amounts of money for new spending.

Councillor Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council

It would have matched the Living Wage Foundation’s boost in the Foundation Living Wage to the higher amount, which employers now have the option of paying their staff.

But the Tories dismissed the move, given the costs involved, and decided to freeze the current rate, despite warnings it will hit families in the pocket.

Figures revealed the cost to the council of introducing the higher wages next year would have been £103,700, while it would have set schools back £171,900.

A report put to the panel said adopting a pay freeze would result in a ‘real-term reduction in salaries, as the rate won’t have increased in line with the cost of living.’

Employment committee member and Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘We made the case for paying the Living Wage here in Portsmouth, but Conservatives on the committee were not prepared to do that. The Living Wage is there because it is very, very difficult for people to live on the minimum wage.

‘Everyone else will get a pay rise, except the people who are paid the lowest.

‘It’s unfair and not the right thing for the council to do.’

Addressing the cons of introducing the higher £8.45 rate, the report said it would have resulted in ‘significant costs to both the council and to schools.’

It added: ‘This option may result in schools opting to pay different rates based on affordability and may create different rates paid across the authority as a whole, increasing the equal pay risks.’

Addressing Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s criticism, Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy council leader, said: ‘It’s gesture politics.

‘There aren’t huge amounts of money for new spending.

‘It would have cost more than £100,000.

Cllr Stubbs added: ‘It’s easy to say the council should spend more money and cut taxes. But unless you believe in magic, free money, it’s not feasible.’

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