Poll: Quarter of Suffolk county workers can’t afford the cost of living

NEARLY a quarter of employees at Suffolk County Council are not earning enough money to cover the basic cost of living, the Ipswich Star can reveal today.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act have revealed 6,122 of the council’s 26,770 workers are earning less than �7.20 per hour – known as the living wage.

This equates to around �14,000 for someone working a 37.5 hour week.

The rate is voluntary for employers to pay and is calculated based on the basic cost of living in the UK – it is higher than minimum wage, which is set at �6.08 per hour.

Campaigners have called for a living wage to be introduced since 2001. Stefan Baskerville, one of the organisers of the campaign, said: “We would encourage Suffolk County Council to pay the living wage to employers. I think it is the right thing to do.

“People need to be paid decently to raise children in good health and there are lots of local authorities all over the country which have committed to implement it.”

The figures relate to people who are directly employed by the council and include jobs such as catering assistants and midday supervisors.

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A spokesman for the council said: “All of our jobs go through a thorough evaluation process to determine the level of pay appropriate to that role.

“The county council is a responsible employer and no one working for us earns less than the minimum wage.

“We do however have to balance salaries against the need to keep the cost of the public sector to a minimum.”

Bringing down the cost of living is essential for people on low wages.

That is the view today of Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who believes raising the minimum wage to the living wage would result in mass unemployment.

Mr Gummer added that many people who are living under �7.20 per hour will have spouses working as well.

He said: “The best thing we can do for everyone on low wages is to deal with the cost of living which has increased significantly.

“The best way of helping people is making sure the cost of living comes down and making sure the cost of food doesn’t go up too much and taking them out of tax.”

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