Earnings of the lowest paid council staff in Newcastle are set to increase as pressure mounts on local authorities to introduce the so-called living wage.
Newcastle City Council is planning to boost its staff’s hourly living wage rate to £7.55 from April 2014, it emerged yesterday.
The council is the only in the region to introduce a living wage and last year gave its staff £7.20 an hour.
Today the nationally-recommended rate, designed to cope with the rising cost of living and set annually by the Centre for Research in Social Policy, is £7.65.
Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Joyce McCarty, said cuts to Government grants are a strain on the authority’s finances and the 35p rise is a fair deal. The rise is being funded by cuts to senior management costs and comes after the TUC called for Labour-led councils in the region to be “economic shepherds” and start paying the living wage. Other authorities in the region, also grappling with unprecedented cuts, have set up working groups to look at how they can introduce better wages for low paid staff.
Coun McCarty said: “Our Newcastle Living Wage is channelling money directly into local shops and businesses. We believe it also helps to increase staff commitment and morale. So a Living Wage is good for the economy, and good for the quality of public services.
“Government cuts to council budgets are limiting the opportunity for local councils to meet this [£7.65] level at the current time. But in Newcastle we are determined to make progress towards the nationally-established benchmark. I can therefore announce we will be proposing in this year’s budget consultation that, from April 2014 our Newcastle Living Wage will rise much more quickly than the national Living Wage, to £7.55 an hour.
“This would continue to be funded by the savings we have secured in senior management costs. As part of the on-going consultation, we will continue to discuss with schools how the living wage can be implemented effectively for the staff working in the school system. As a point of principle, we believe the Newcastle Living Wage should be equivalent to the Living Wage paid by other committed employers on a national basis. We believe this is fair in tough times.”