Cornwall councillors demand: 'Pay all our staff a proper living wage'
Councillors in Cornwall have launched a petition calling for all of its staff to be paid at least £7.20 an hour.
Jude Robinson, Labour councillor at Cornwall Council, is behind the bid and wants the authority to become an accredited living wage employer.
The petition was launched as unions across the country called for the £7.20 rate to be adopted by local authorities and the private sector. However, taxpayer groups said the rise would spark higher council tax bills for residents.
Ms Robinson said she wanted those on low pay working for the council to benefit, for example dinner ladies who earn around £12,000 a year.
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However, she said she didn't know how much the increase would cost taxpayers because her efforts to get the council to investigate and debate the issue had been rejected.
She said: "People who work hard should not have to struggle to pay for essentials and the council should take the lead in building a fair economy in Cornwall.
"The living wage can lift families out of poverty, reduce reliance on benefits and prevent people falling into debt."
Currently the minimum wage stands at £6.19 an hour for 21-year-olds and over, £4.98 for 18-20-year-olds, under-18s £3.68 and £2.65 for apprentices. The living wage is the minimum hourly rate for an individual to meet their own or their family's basic day-to-day needs, including housing, food and clothing, according to the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said other avenues existed for politicians to help low-earners. He said: "If politicians really want to help people who aren't earning a lot of money then they need to look at income tax and national insurance, which claim 40 pence in each pound someone earns after the personal allowance, and consumption taxes like fuel duty and VAT, which massively increase the cost of living.
"While the living wage campaign claims to be interested only in pay at the bottom of the income distribution, over time differences in earnings which reflect the pecking order in the council are likely to reassert themselves.
"This will just end up as another pay rise for public sector staff at the expense of local residents, including the many people really struggling who don't work for the council.
"More big increases in public sector pay are not sustainable and not fair at a time when public sector workers are significantly better paid than workers in the private sector.
"Ultimately it will be residents in Cornwall who have to pick up the bill in higher council tax. They deserve a fairer deal."
Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for economy and regeneration could not be contacted for comment yesterday.