Hampshire County Council split on giving low-paid staff more money

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THE lowest-paid staff at the county council will stay on the minimum wage after councillors decided not to introduce the living wage for its employees.

The potential pay rise, which would have seen 1,208 employees’ wages rise from £6.31 per hour to £7.35, was discussed at the Employment in Hampshire County Council Committee at its latest meeting.

Councillors decided to throw out the proposal after hearing it would cost the council almost £1m, place 29 jobs at risk and put pressure on the council to raise the price of its services, including council tax.

Executive member for human resources, Councillor Stephen Reid, said: ‘The living wage concept is a well meaning one, but is not appropriate for the county council at this time.’

The living wage is a voluntary undertaking and would see a full-time employee working 37 hours a week earn £14,758 a year, compared to £12,173 on the national minimum wage.

Cllr Reid defended the decision by saying the package for a council employee, such as pension, annual leave and sick pay, are all above the statutory requirement, which when added together, brought the total package above the living wage.

The move comes at a time when the council is looking to make £93m of savings from its budget.

Cllr Reid added: ‘The living wage would add costs to the county’s wage bill.

‘This would generate upward pressure on the budget, when we are looking for downward pressures.

‘The proposal would have knock-on effects on the services we provide, making them less competitive, for example adding an extra 5p to every child’s school meal.

‘Any increase to the wage bill will mean more savings are needed, which could lead to job losses.

‘At a time of ongoing financial constraint, I want to be protecting people’s jobs.’

Currently 22 local authorities in England pay the living wage, while 77 councils have implemented policies to introduce it including Portsmouth City Council, which will bring it in by November at a cost of £38,500 per year.

Portsmouth’s leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I hope our decision will inspire other organisations.’