A South Tyneside Council boss has welcomed the chancellor’s commitment to introducing a national living wage - and pledged to protect vulnerable people in the borough from further government cuts.
Earlier this year the process began to give 1,000 of the council’s lowest-paid workers the national living wage.
The council is now moving towards the implementation of the full national living wage rate – outside of London – of £7.85 per hour from April 2016.
In yesterday’s budget, George Osborne revealed plans for a national living wage of £9 an hour by 2020.
Labour’s Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for Resources and Innovation, believes there is a “compelling case” for employers to adopt the living wage.
But he claimed most of the other budget announcements “look to tighten the squeeze on the most vulnerable in our society”.
And he said that although changes to income tax could provide some relief for the lowest paid workers “much of that is lost by changes to welfare such as reductions in tax credits”.
He added: “There is a compelling case for employers to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living and I am pleased that this will start as soon as April 2016 with the introduction at the rate of £7.20. As a council we have championed the introduction of the living wage for a number of years.
“The chancellor clearly stated in his opening speech that he intends to cut deficit at the same pace as the previous parliament. We will find out later this year exactly how the cuts to local government will fall and the potential impact this will have on South Tyneside going forward. Over the last five years local authorities have had the greatest burden to bear in a bid to reduce the deficit. Continuing spending cuts in this parliament at same rate as the previous one will undoubtedly affect local services and the people who so desperately need them. I want to reassure everyone that as a council we will continue to do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society whilst continuing our ambitions to create jobs and opportunities for the people of South Tyneside.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck accused Mr Osborne of trying to “get some good headlines”.
She said: “The chancellor knows that the announcement on wages will get him some good headlines. But make no mistake about it – a lot of working people in Shields will be made worse off by this budget. George Osborne gave with one hand, but he took much more with the other. Over three million families will lose out because of the tax credit changes announced today, and there are going to be a further four years of painful pay restraint for public sector workers.
“On top of that we had a taste of the welfare cuts to come, and as always it’s working parents, the young and the disabled who are going to be at the sharp end of the chancellor’s axe. Labour believes welfare savings can be made, but it’s unacceptable for David Cameron and George Osborne to put vulnerable people in the firing line, and I worry about what this budget will mean for those people.”