Suffolk: Councillors reject attempt to increase wages of lowest paid contractors from £6.50 an hour to £7.65 in line with minimum living wage

David Ellesmere and Councillor Martin Cook show Ipswich Borough Council's Living Wage official accre

David Ellesmere and Councillor Martin Cook show Ipswich Borough Council's Living Wage official accreditation - Credit: Archant

A bid to ensure all staff employed by Suffolk County Council contractors are paid the living wage was rejected after a lively debate at yesterday’s full meeting of the authority.

The opposition Labour group proposed the motion which would have seen the lowest-paid staff earn at least £7.65 an hour instead of the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour.

The Living Wage Foundation is encouraging employers to pay the higher figure – pointing out that staff earning that are less likely to be reliant on in-work benefits.

It is backed by many of the largest companies in the country, many local authorities, and some other organisations including the Church of England.

Opposition leader Sandy Martin said: “Apparently, the UK economy is now growing, but there are a very significant number of people who are not benefitting from that growth.

“They are the people who were most heavily penalised by the recession, and who were least responsible for causing it in the first place.

“How can it possibly be right to say that we have a duty of care to a care worker who is employed by Suffolk County Council, and so will pay them enough to live on, but then say that because the name on their pay-slip has changed from SCC to Care UK we suddenly have no responsibility to care for them at all?

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“They are the same person with the same needs. They are doing the same job. They are even being paid by the same people, ultimately.”

He said someone being paid to do a job should earn enough to live on – not have to rely on benefits to top up their wages.

Conservative council leader Mark Bee said it was right that everyone should share increased prosperity, including those on low wages, but trying to force contractors to pay the living wage was not the right approach.

He said: “This is a very worthy aim, and an understandable motion with a general election just around the corner next year.

“But the way to improve the earnings of people in Suffolk is to encourage more prosperity by allowing the county to develop.”

His Conservative colleague John Goodwin said by introducing the living wage, the cost for council tax payers would increase significantly.

Members of the UKIP group at the council supported the move – although Haverhill councillor Julian Flood said he felt Labour were being hypocritical because they had opposed a move to sell land in his home town for a scheme which could have included social housing.