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Harrogate Council slammed for axeing Living Wage

West Park-cenotaph

6:04pm 11th July 2018

A union has accused Harrogate Council of not backing its lowest-paid workers after it voted against giving them a greater pay increase in order to save £13,000.

Unison has spoken out and claims the authority put money before its staff when it decided not to increase its minimum pay to the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended £8.75 per hour – known as the real living wage.

Instead, the council will pay a minimum of £8.50 per hour to its lowest-paid workers, which includes cleaners, gardeners and staff at the Turkish baths.

David Houlgate, Unison’s local government branch secretary for Harrogate, has hit out at the council, accusing the authority of double standards after it had a seven-figure underspend last year.

Mr Houlgate said:

“The council used to pay its staff the living wage in 2014 but fell behind. Last year, it paid its staff £8.25 per hour after it used a supplement to increase their pay packets.

However, the actual real living wage that year was £8.45 so it was still behind what people should have been earning.

By not agreeing to pay a supplement this year the council is saving £13,000. That equates to 0.045% of its total wage budget.

Let’s not forget that this is a council that underspent by around £1.8 million last year but it still can’t find £13,000 to pay its lowest paid members of staff what they need to live on”.

Mr Houlgate said that the £13,000 to increase wages to £8.75 would likely to be a one-off payment as next year the real living wage and the Local Government pay award would both be set at around £9 per hour.

He added that it was believed the number of staff affected would have been 50.

The £8.50 figure was agreed nationally between the Local Government Association and unions.

The real living wage is higher than the National Living Wage, which stands at £7.83 per hour and is set by the Government.

The real living wage is voluntary and worked out on what employees and their families “need to live”.

Almost two-thirds of local authorities now pay the real living wage.

Cllr Tim Myatt, chairman of the Human Resources Committee which made the decision said that the agreed pay rise “was in line with the national Local Government Association and union recommendations”.

He added:

“We had not budgeted for the [£13,000] increase this year.”

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