Heated debate brings St Albans council a step closer to introducing Living Wage

Heated debate brings St Albans council a step closer to introducing Living Wage

Heated debate brings St Albans council a step closer to introducing Living Wage

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

Opposition councillors defeated the leading St Albans Conservative party on Wednesday night in a heated debate over the Living Wage.

A motion to "reduce poverty in St Albans" by introducing a £7.65 wage to district council workers and contractors was passed during a full council meeting.

Twenty-seven councillors including Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Independent and one Conservative councillor voted for the motion, which was introduced by Labour Councillor Janet Smith. While the leading Conservative party was defeated by one vote.

Councillor Smith said: "2,607 children live in poverty in this district and of those children 48.3 per cent have parents who work. The living wage is to reduce poverty.

"So we really need to get on with this- no one should have to work hard for less than they can live on.

"It is a disgrace that in 2014 in this chamber we are having to debate workers provide services on behalf of this council to earn enough to live on. This council has a duty to them to ensure they are properly paid for this work. "

The council will now work towards accreditation as a Living Wage Employer to ensure its contractors and suppliers of goods and services do the same.

Councillor Smith continued: "People working for some of our contractors are busy wondering how they are going to pay their bills while we continue to prevaricate.

"This is the right thing we should be doing. St Albans District Council should take the lead in being progressive and going forward.

"This is a moral issue rather than a financial one. The council does have a moral duty to these people because they are providing services to the people on behalf of the council."

During the debate Conservative councillors suggested an amended motion, which meant the Living Wage scheme be delayed for discussion until October.

Councillor Alec Campbell spoke of his fear for "young inexperienced workers" and the financial implications.

He said: "If you pay higher rates you attract higher skilled workers, who will effectively take those positions disadvantaging the younger inexperienced workers."

However Labour leader Councillor Martin Leach, said: "This is a stalling tactic, this is 18 months of stalling.

Green Councillor Simon Grover added: "There will be a risk to this council’s reputation if we don’t pass this.

"We are going to look ridiculous this is something we can do, it is positive."

Liberal Democrat party leader Councillor Chris White continued: "The amendment knocks back the whole process to 2015."

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