Portsmouth councillors agreed to push further for real living wage accreditation - meaning all contracted staff working for the authority will be paid a wage of £9.50 an hour, more than the legal minimum wage of £8.72.
As previously reported, the council agreed to pay all its in-house staff the real living wage back in 2018, however, contracted and agency employees - who mainly work in social care - were not included.
During an employment committee meeting today members heard that immediately paying contracted staff the higher wage would require around £3.2m taken from council savings and a further £900,000 from the housing account.
At the virtual meeting council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘There isn't provision in the budget to fund the £3.2m which is why we want to do it on a gradual basis.’
Instead the increased pay will be introduced on a contract by contract basis, which is expected to take several years.
Labour councillor Cal Corkery fought for the wage to come into immediate effect.
‘Carers and other low paid council staff have been at the forefront of the pandemic caring for the vulnerable and keeping us all safe,’ he said.
‘I believe we owe them not just a debt of gratitude but do all in our power to ensure they are paid a decent wage and treated with respect.
‘This isn't luxury we are giving them this is the basic wage to live a basic standard of life with their families.’
But Conservative leader Cllr Donna Jones had concerns about making a sudden financial commitment not long before the 2021/22 budget was due to be set.
She said: ‘My conundrum with this is until I have the full budget briefing I don't know whether or not we are looking at one or two million of savings needed so therefore it's going to be a bit easier - or if we are looking at two or three times that amount, that would mean difficult decisions to cut services elsewhere.’
Portsmouth council currently works with around 650 contractors to supply staff.