Council commits to living wage for employees

The full council will vote on the proposals in a fortnight's time.
The full council will vote on the proposals in a fortnight's time.

Northumberland County Council has said that it has reaffirmed its commitment to introducing a living wage for employees later this year.

As the council set its budget for the next two years, it was announced that it would be introducing a living wage in October.

Although details still need to be worked out, the administration has said that it has always been clear about its intention to work towards a living wage.

Living wages are distinct from statutory minimum wages. A living wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs including housing, clothing and nutrition.

The principle underlying the living wage is that work should bring dignity and should pay enough to provide families with the essentials of life.

The North East reflects the national average with more than one in five people receiving less than the living wage, a figure that is slightly higher in Northumberland.

A working group was set up by the local authority in 2013 specifically to look at implementing a living wage for all council employees and the potential costs and benefits for the wider community in the context of other significant changes, such as welfare reform.

The council’s business chairman, Coun Scott Dickinson, welcomed the announcement. He said: “A living wage makes sense on every level – moral, social, business and economic.

“Making a living wage the bottom rate of pay in Northumberland County Council would not only improve morale but help reduce sickness absence and demonstrate to employees that they are valued.

“Higher incomes for local people would also translate into a welcome boost for the local economy.

“We realise there are still details to be worked out in meeting the additional cost of introducing a living wage at a time when public-sector budgets are being significantly squeezed.

“However, as the single largest employer in the county, we are looking to be at the forefront on ethical employment and social responsibility.

“We hope by demonstrating our commitment to the principles of the living wage it will prompt both private sector firms and companies and voluntary and community sector organisations to consider whether they too should adopt this approach.”