New proposal to help tackle low pay in Greenwich

Woolwich Town HallPlease note this post is from my previous blog. To read my posts during the 2017 General Election campaign click here.

At next week’s council meeting I will be proposing a new Greenwich Living Wage Incentive Scheme to encourage employers in the borough to pay the London Living Wage, which could make a huge difference to thousands of residents at no extra cost to the council taxpayer.

While the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Greenwich has fallen by an incredible 39 percent since 2010, figures compiled for the London Poverty Profile show that more than one in five jobs in the borough (21 percent) are paid less than the London Living Wage (the amount calculated as necessary to earn enough to cover the basic cost of living, currently set at £9.15 an hour) – and I believe the council has a responsibility to do more to tackle low pay across the borough.

In November, Labour-run Brent council became the first local authority in the country to announce plans to use new powers granted by the Conservative-led government in the Localism Act 2011 to offer a one-off discount on business rates to employers who commit to pay at least the London Living Wage to all of their employees.

The Greenwich Living Wage Incentive Scheme that I and my fellow Conservative councillors will be pushing for next week would be based on the same model, bringing similar benefits to Greenwich residents and employers.  Under the new Business Rate Retention arrangements, the costs of these one-off ‘Section 69′ Localism Act discounts are funded 50 percent by central government, 20 percent by the GLA and 30 percent by the council concerned – a modest cost that we believe could be met at no extra cost to the taxpayer from existing budgets.

Paying the Living Wage is a win-win – it’s good for employees and their families, and good for local businesses too, giving them a more financially secure workforce and helping them to retain the best people.  There are also huge benefits for society as a whole, as tackling low pay reduces the strain on the welfare system.

As I’ve told the News Shopper this week, I want to see Greenwich lead the way in the fight against low pay, and my proposal for a Living Wage Incentive Scheme would be a bold cross-party move that would make a huge difference to thousands of residents in Greenwich.

This is one example of an issue where there seems to be a political consensus in our borough – so I hope Labour councillors will put party politics to one side and support my plan in the council chamber next week.  I will be lobbying them all individually over the coming days.

(The full text of my motion at next week’s Full Council meeting, which will be seconded by my colleague Cllr Nuala Geary, is below)

Motion – Living Wage Incentive Scheme
Council notes that 21 percent of jobs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich are low-paid, according to figures compiled for the London Poverty Profile from Office of National Statistics data.
Council re-iterates its commitment to promoting the Living Wage as a means of tackling low pay in the Royal Borough. 
Council notes that local authorities now have the power to reduce Business Rates from the level set nationally by the Localism Act 2011 by offering local discounts, the cost of which are funded 50 percent by central government, 30 percent by the local authority concerned and 20 percent by the Greater London Authority.
Council praises the London Borough of Brent for its innovative proposal to use these localism powers to encourage the adoption of the Living Wage by local employers.
Council therefore calls on the Leader to agree to develop and consult on a proposal for a new Greenwich Living Wage Incentive Scheme, which would see local employers that achieve accreditation by the Living Wage Foundation awarded a one-off discount on their business rates, to incentivise the adoption of the Living Wage.  Consultation on these proposals will take place by July 2015.

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