Living wage will stay for council workers

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THE Liberal Democrats have expressed their disappointment that the living wage will not be increased.

Yesterday, the Employment Committee at Portsmouth City Council discussed the living wage and the Conservative-led council decided it would remain at £7.85 an hour.

But the Lib Dems have criticised the decision, saying it’s unfair that staff will not see a pay rise this year.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of the Lib Dems in the city, said: ‘The vote will mean the council’s lowest-paid staff will be the only staff not to receive a pay rise this coming year.

‘This is a really disappointing decision by Conservative councillors. Lib Dems have campaigned to make the city council a living wage employer and we will keep to this.

‘This is a terrible Christmas present for the lowest-paid workers in the city council.’

But Councillor Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for health and social care at the council, said: ‘Like all local authorities, this council is facing substantial cuts to the grant it receives from the government.

‘We have had to find £11 million of savings for 2016/17, which means we’ve had to take some very tough decisions on the budget.

‘A new National Living Wage was announced by the government in the summer and will start in April next year.

‘We had the option to reduce staff salaries in line with the new National Living Wage, which is set at £7.20 per hour for staff aged 25 and over – 65p less per hour than the council is currently paying – but have chosen to keep pay levels at their current £7.85 per hour level.’

Cllr Stubbs said as the government was aiming to increase the National Living Wage to around £9 per hour by 2020, the national rate would catch up with the amount the council was paying.