Concerns of remaining in low-pay trap

THE county faces years in a low-pay trap which will grind down local businesses as well as families, say campaigners.

Unless chancellor George Osborne relents, it will become harder to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and nurses in Northumberland, says the county council’s Labour group.

It intends to put a motion to the county council’s July meeting calling on the government to change its mind about lower pay outside the south east.

Group leader Coun Grant Davey said: “The north-south drift of the workforce and the emigration of skilled people from the area will speed up. Petrol will not be cheaper in the north because we earn less.”

Labour councillors claim there are 36,900 public sector workers in the county and if they have less in their pockets then local businesses will suffer,

The group’s motion argues there is no evidence justifying the government’s move.

Rather than public sector pay ‘crowding out’ the private sector, there are ten people chasing every Job Centre vacancy in Northumberland, it says.

And workers here are already paid £77 a week less than the British average.

The motion says: “This policy will not improve the pay of private sector workers but instead could encourage further depression of wages in all sectors. We do not want to be forever defined as a ‘low pay’ region.

“This policy is therefore counter to our county’s vision and ambitions for the future.”

Pay review bodies are due to report on the issue in July and September.

The Labour motion calls on the council to write to the chancellor and the chief secretary to the treasury stating the council’s opposition to lower regional pay, write to all local MPs and sign up to the Fair Pay campaign.