Kent County Council due to reject move to bring in 'living wage' for its staff
Kent County Council is expected to reject calls to pay its staff a living wage despite concerns more lower paid staff are struggling with the spiralling costs of living.
The issue will be considered by the authority’s cross-party personnel committee at a meeting today.
But the council’s Conservative administration is likely to rule out the idea, saying the additional £1.2m costs associated with implementing it are too high.
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Cllr Garry Cooke, the vice chairman of the council’s personnel committee, said: “We will continue to keep the option under review but given the situation we are in, the time is not right to go down this route given the expense.”
He added the authority’s lowest paid staff were already earning more than the minimum wage and implementing the policy would mean contractors would have to follow suit.
The living wage is seen by some as a way of lifting lower paid employees out of poverty and is regarded as a more accurate minimum pay level than the statutory minimum wage, which is set by the government.
Already, more than 80 councils have adopted the living wage, with Gravesham, Maidstone and Swale doing so in Kent.
Its current value is £7.45 an hour, compared to £6.19 for the statutory minimum wage. That is going up to £6.31.
Kent County Council says about 3,110 staff would be affected if it was to adopt the idea, including school staff.
The council’s pay bill for its own lowest-paid workers would increase by about £281,000 a year.
However, if the living wage was adopted for schools staff, that would add another £1.2m as a result, taking into account additional National Insurance contributions.
Personnel chiefs at County Hall say there are pros and cons to the idea.
A paper says one downside would be that Kent County Council would no longer have complete control over pay costs.
Opposition Labour group leader Cllr Gordon Cowan said he backed the idea.
“Kent County Council should be doing this. In the south east, the cost of living is much higher than in many other places. I believe that anyone who has a contract with Kent County Council should be made, as part of that contract, to pay at the living wage level.”
Figures suggest about one in five people earn less than the living wage.
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