Row breaks out over wages of lowest-paid at Portsmouth City Council

The Civic Offices in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
The Civic Offices in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
HMS St Albans (background) with the Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry Picture: PO Lee Blease

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HARD working employees of Portsmouth City Council were not paid enough last year, Lib Dem councillors have claimed.

At a full council meeting yesterday the Tory administration was slammed by members of the opposition for its failure to give the council’s lowest-paid workers a pay rise.

These employees, such as cleaners, were paid an hourly rate of £7.85, a wage that has not increased in three years.

The rate is in accordance with the government’s national living wage. However, the Living Wage Foundation, an independent body, claims £8.75 an hour is actually needed to live.

In comparison most of the council’s workers received a one per cent pay rise in 2017, with its highest-paid earning up to £151,878 a year.

Lib Dem Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson led the accusation. He said: ‘Our concern is the continued refusal to pay a living wage to the lowest-paid people who work for the city council as defined by the independent Living Wage Foundation.

‘I am concerned that since 2015 the wages for the lowest paid workers in the council have been frozen. And that is in direct contrast of those getting the largest salaries for the council who have had substantial pay increases over the year.

‘These people provide a vital service and the decision of this council has been that we don’t value them, we don’t think they deserve a pay rise.

‘I think it is a disgrace that we have chosen to ignore people who work very hard for the city.’

Cllr Matthew Winnington agreed. He added: ‘Can you imagine in your day jobs if they froze your pay but people above you got a pay rise. Do you think that would be fair?

‘Why anyone would defend this I can’t understand. We should be standing up for everyone in this city.’

Council leader, Cllr Donna Jones, revealed that the workers would be receiving a pay rise in the future.

She said: ‘This is a really important issue. Therefore, I am pleased to confirm that we have an offer on the table for the lowest-paid people in our employment to give them a pay rise of 8.6 per cent, taking them up to an hourly rate of £8.50.

‘That is far in excess of inflation. This council is committed to making sure that those who are paid the lowest amount in our workforce are looked after and cared for.’

She also addressed the fact the problems raised were based on a report from the year gone: ‘This is a historical report of what we paid our staff over the last financial year.

‘Discussing the way forward for these wages will be taken up at a committee.’

Fellow Tory, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said: ‘Firstly this is a pay policy statement for the year that’s closed. So this is a fact and we can’t amend that because it has already gone.

‘The one per cent increase that the bulk of the staff have had is not excessive, I find it interesting that you think it is too much.’

Cllr Steve Wemyss added: ‘What we are looking at here is a report of last year. That cannot be changed. What matters is the future.’