LABOUR councillors are calling for a detailed analysis of the likely impact on Northumberland of Government plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board.
Currently, all casual farm workers in England and Wales have their pay set by the board, which was established in 1924. But coalition ministers recently announced plans to axe it as part of the drive to get rid of quangos, with agricultural employers setting pay locally.
It has been claimed that the decision will see farm workers lose benefits such as payment for annual leave, and result in the removal of about £240m from workers over the next 10 years.
Now the Labour group on Northumberland County Council has asked for the impacts of the decision to be examined by the council’s communities and place scrutiny committee.
Group leader, Grant Davey, has written to committee chairman, Glen Sanderson, asking for an emergency item to be added to the next meeting.
Coun Davey said Labour agrees with a recent Office for National Statistics report which said the cost of living for rural families is £50 a week higher than in urban areas.
He says the abolition of the wages board, and its protection for farmworkers’ pay, will be a further blow for countryside dwellers.
In a letter to Coun Sanderson he says: “We urge the council’s communities and place overview and scrutiny panel to launch a review, and a thorough impact assessment, of the effect which the Governments removal of the Agricultural Wages Board will have on Northumberland.”
The decision to axe the board has been welcomed by the National Farmers’ Union, which labelled it outdated and an administrative burden, but has been condemned by the Unite union.
Ministers say the move will create a more flexible labour market.