October marks start of Living Wage for council employees

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

Northumberland County Council has signed off on its proposals to introduce the Living Wage for all its staff.

From October 1, all of the local authority’s employees, including at schools, will be paid the £7.85 set out by the Living Wage Foundation.

At today’s meeting of the council’s cabinet, where the proposals were approved, it was also agreed to monitor the implementation to ensure that higher wages don’t disadvantage employees through the loss of benefits.

However, Coun Ian Swithenbank said that in light of further cuts to welfare, that ‘will be less of an issue’.

“Money in their wage packets is what counts,” he added.

“I could not live on what the grass-cutters get and I’m not extravagant – I’ve told some of them that before – and that makes me feel guilty.”

It was explained that the extra needed to boost some employees’ salaries to the level of the Living Wage is being paid as a supplement, due to ongoing discussions about the pay-grade differentials with the unions. Coun Dave Ledger said this was the only way to ensure this commitment could be delivered for October as promised.

Coun Paul Kelly said: “Paying a supplement has got to be a temporary arrangement. Persuading the unions that a narrowing of the differntial is needed is the logical approach.

“We have got to control the wage bill to some extent, but we have got to be fair to those at the bottom.”

Coun Swithenbank said he supported the supplement as with further cuts coming in local government, you could end up losing staff you didn’t have to due to amended terms and conditions.