Blackburn council pledge to increase wages is criticised
A PLEDGE by Blackburn with Darwen borough to increase wages for hundreds of its lowest paid staff by more than a pound an hour has been criticised by political and business leaders.
The critics have said they cannot see how the authority can propose such a move at the same time as complaining about being forced to rein back spend-ing and cut services because of Whitehall grant reductions.
The full council forum has approved the authority’s corp-orate plan for 2012 to 2015, which includes a target of paying all its 3,000 plus employee a “living wage” of £7.20 an hour compared to the national minimum wage of £6.08 a hour.
On page four the document outlines how the borough is “planning for future savings of between £11 million and £27 million over the next two years”.
On page six it states the aim of paying the “living wage” to staff.
Executive member for resources Andy Kay said: “This would affect some hundreds of our lowest paid employees. We cannot do it now because of the financial situation.”
Tory leader Michael Lee said: “While this may be a worthy aim, you must question whether now is the time to be considering it.”
Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a complex issue. What the council pays its staff is a matter for it.
“If they want to pay the highest earning employees a bit less to pay their lowest paid a bit more, that is their affair.
“However, they should not be paying their staff more than their counterparts in the private sector.”
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the Tax-Payers’ Alliance, said: “Hard-pressed council taxpayers in Blackburn with Darwen certainly have every right to ask how on earth the council thinks it could afford to introduce a ‘living wage’ when it is having to find tens of millions in savings elsewhere.
“More than that, they will wonder why — when public sector workers already enjoy better average pay and pensions than their private sector counterparts — the council is seeking effectively to widen that gap further.”