Living Wage Town

Care homes’ hollow boasts over Living Wage

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View from Seaton reports today my attempt in December to persuade Seaton Town Council to make Seaton a ‘Living Wage Town’, promoting the Living Wage of £8.25 an hour.

3007021_4ebd9eaeHowever the same issue contains a full-page advert proclaiming ‘Cannon Care Homes achieve another first!’ The owners of The Check House (right) and Thornfield boast:

‘On April 1st the new Living Wage of £7.20 is being introduced country wide for over 25’s. At Cannon Care Homes our Minimum Wage for over 25’s all be £7.25 from March 1st!’

To understand this, you need to know that George Osborne is rebranding the official Minimum Wage as ‘the National Living Wage’, increasing it to £7.20 per hour from April 1st.

So Cannon will be paying their employees 5p per hour (yes a whole 5p!) more than the legal minimum and introducing this one month (yes a whole month!) before they are legally bound to.

Living Wage Foundation logo

The Living Wage which I support is independently researched as the minimum amount which, on average, employees need to live on and should apply to all workers over 18. The Government’s rebranded Minimum Wage is still over £1 an hour below this level, and does not apply to workers aged 18 to 25.

The care home sector is very important in Seaton. Which care home employer will be the first to pay the real Living Wage to all its employees?

Seaton will not promote the Living Wage

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Living Wage Foundation logoSeaton Town Council has rejected my proposal that the town should follow the example of Bridport in West Dorset and Frome in Somerset and become East Devon’s first ‘Living Wage Town’.
Seaton Council already pays its own employees the Living Wage of £8.25 per hour set by the independent Resolution Foundation. The proposal would have meant that major Council contractors and collaborating organisations would be expected to pay the Living Wage. The Council would also have explored the promotion of the Living Wage among employers in the town, through discussions with the Chamber of Commerce, trade unions and others.
These ideas were voted down by 6 votes to 2. Opponents mainly emphasised the difficulties the Living Wage would cause for businesses like shops and care homes. I think this is short-sighted: businesses that pay the Living Wage report better value and commitment from their workers.
Councils large and small are promoting the Living Wage. London Mayor Boris Johnson says, ‘Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too.’ (The London Living Wage is £9.40.)
East Devon is the 8th least affordable district in the country, with average houses prices 11 times average incomes (compared to the average of 8 times). Renters need to pay rent of on average 44% of their incomes (compared to 33%).
As benefits are cut, George Osborne’s ‘low-benefit, high-wage economy’ needs pay rises if the lower-paid are not to lose out. Seaton Town Council has missed an opportunity to do something for its less well-paid residents – and to put itself ahead of the rest of East Devon.
If we can promote bringing business to the town, why can’t we promote better pay for the people who help make it all happen?
NOTE. The Living Wage (currently £8.25) is set annually by the Resolution Foundation on the basis of independent research into living costs. It applies to all workers over 18 except apprentices. In contrast the Minimum Wage is £6.70. Although it is set to rise to £7.20 in April, when Mr Osborne will confusingly rebrand it the ‘national living wage’, it will still be less than what is needed to live, and applies only to people over 21.