Council could become living wage authority

Councillors have agreed to look at ways to become a ‘living wage’ authority.

Of the seven local authorities in the north east, Northumberland has the highest number of employees earning below the living wage, with most being school workers.

But now Northumberland County Council is looking at ways to ensure staff are paid more.

Chairman of the Northumberland Living Wage Working Group, Beth Farhat, told councillors on Tuesday, that more than 27 per cent of Northumberland’s workers are paid below the living wage.

“The current UK living wage is £7.65 per hour, which contrasts with the current national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour, and is the actual cost of living,” she said.

“There might not be a huge difference between the minimum wage and the living wage, but that difference will go quite far.

“It is an extra £10 a day, which buys a roast dinner for a family.

“Offering the living wage is a good start and it would have an impact on the poorest people in the Northumberland area.”

Approximately 1,780 employees of the council are currently earning below the living wage, with 1,500 of these working part time in schools in roles such as cleaners, catering assistants, library assistants, administration assistants, school crossing patrols and lunchtime supervisory assistants.

The average minimum wage is around £11,500 a year, whereas the average living wage would be £13,900.

Chair of the Policy Board committee, Coun Grant Davey, said: “We will need to look into our budget to see how this could be done.

“This is something we want to move into, but we will need to work with schools to decide what we want to do.”

“What we don’t want to do is set up a two tier work force,” he added.

“When we do it, it will be in line with everyone else.”