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Scotland: Dumfriesshire councillors battle over Living Wage
Dumfries & Galloway Standard
Craig Robertson

July 20, 2011
View the Original Article


THE COUNCIL’S Conservative-led administration has blasted a new scheme which will give more than 800 workers a pay rise.

They fear the introduction of a “living wage” of £7.15 per hour will cost jobs and actually leave people worse off.

Labour and SNP elected members voted through the proposals at a council meeting on Friday.

Afterwards, Tory councillor Peter Duncan, who tried to have the scheme thrown out, said: “It beggars belief that Labour and the SNP would vote to put jobs at risk.

“We were told that the council’s trading arm would lose business if the wage rates of over 800 people were increased to £7.20 and people would lose their jobs as a result.

“It’s remarkable that Labour and SNP councillors now seem to relish their role as redundancy champions.

“This move will cost the council significantly, over £300,000, when our budgets are stretched like never before.

“It will result in job losses and, to cap it all, hardly any of our employees will be any better off at all.

“Almost all low paid workers are entitled to tax credits, therefore any additional earnings will result in less tax credits being paid. Dumfries and Galloway Council taxpayers will lose out, whilst the UK Treasury will gain.”

The current lowest hourly rate in the council is £6.36 per hour and the meeting was told that raising that may leave the external trading arms of the council unable to compete with private businesses which pay lower rates.

This, councillors were warned, could put job cuts on the agenda.

The Living Wage proposal was originally put forward by Labour and backed by the SNP during the budget setting day in February when it was also accepted in principal by the Tory-led administration.

Yesterday, Labour Group leader Ronnie Nicholson hit back at the Tories.

He said: “Dumfries and Galloway has a record that we should be ashamed off, as the low pay capital of Scotland.

“Implementing a living wage in the lowest paying local authority shows definite progress and a result for those who work hard but receive the lowest pay.

“Research clearly confirms that £7.15 per hour is the level of pay needed to keep a family above the poverty line and the fact Tory councillors voted against this shows they don’t believe in a decent standard of living for low paid workers.

“What is so hypocritical about the Tories is the fact that they were happy to vote through a £100,000 post for a new senior official – and also refused to cut their own salaries of senior councillors but then they don’t have the decency to support a living wage for those earning less than £7 per hour.”