By Martin Walker
A Lib Dem councillor is claiming victory after the Labour-controlled Durham County Council did a U-turn on the so-called Living Wage.
The local authority has agreed to look again at introducing a new Living Wage which will affect
2,500 employees, including 1,800 who work in schools.
It will see staff earn £7.43 an hour – higher than the minimum wage – as that is seen as the amount which workers need to live off.
Mark Wilkes, the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Framwellgate and Newton Hall, proposed the move in July to no avail.
But DCC has agreed to discuss it again when the full council meets on 3rd December.
Cllr Wilkes said: “It looks like our pressure has paid off. An increase in the pay of the lowest earners in our schools and at the council is essential.
“This will send a message to all employers in County Durham that they should work towards this goal.
“A well paid workforce returns the investment in them many times over. I am delighted that we will see more than 2,500 people in our County paid a decent wage.
“We will continue to push for our lowest paid workers to get a fair deal.”
Lib Dem councillors also pointed out that the cost of the proposals were fully affordable, both for schools and for the council.
Lib Dem group leader Amanda Hopgood said: “Schools in County Durham received a boost of £4m earlier this year.
“The Coalition Government awarded them additional funding due to historic mistakes in financing. This means they have the money to pay a local living wage.
“In addition, the Council has made more savings to date than expected, and has many millions in reserves. We can no longer justify paying anyone less than £7 an hour.
“It is great that Labour are finally listening to Lib Dem councillor advice.”
Many of the schools staff who are currently earning less than £7 an hour are teaching assistants and catering staff. Within the Council, cleaners and care workers are also likely to benefit.
The cost to the council of introducing a local living wage at £7.43 is estimated at £1m for school and council staff in the County.