Living wage battle continues as Harrogate Lib Dems call for supplement to be reinstated

Staff at the Turkish Baths are included among the council's lowest-paid workers.
Staff at the Turkish Baths are included among the council's lowest-paid workers.

Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council have called on the Conservative leadership to reinstate a wage supplement for the authority’s lowest-paid workers.

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Earlier this year, the council decided not to increase its minimum pay to the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended figure of £8.75 per hour – known as the real living wage, in order to save £13,000.

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

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

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On Wednesday (3rd) Liberal Democrat councillors Pat Marsh and Chris Aldred will table a motion at Harrogate’s full council meeting calling on the council to make up the difference in the shortfall. This has previously been known as the “Harrogate Supplement”.

The motion reads: “[We propose] that this Council reverses the decision not to give, the Harrogate Supplement, for one year only, to the 80 qualifying low paid Harrogate Borough Council employees, at a cost of £13k.

“By reinstating the Harrogate Supplement this council would show these Members of Staff that they are valued as important members of the team.”

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

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

Cllr Aldred, said that it is no guarantee it will even be debated at Wednesday’s meeting but the Lib Dems want to keep the pressure on the Conservatives.

He said: “There are procedural rules which means it may not be debated this week but instead come up at the next meeting, which I think may be in early December.

“Our feeling is that it is such a low amount of money to give to the staff who are at the bottom of the wage scale that we don’t know why it hasn’t just been done already.

“Last year, Harrogate Council underspent by £1.8million but does not want to give £13,000 to its workers. I called them meanies when the decision was taken and I stand by that.”

UNISON, which represents a number of the council’s workers, claims that 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.

Neighbouring Scarborough Borough Council voted this year to increase the pay of its staff to the real living wage following a proposal from the authority’s opposition Labour group.

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.