14 February 2013

Elections for the 123 seats on Cornwall unitary council fall in May and the parties and candidates will be preparing their manifestos.

Now’s the moment to highlight an issue that I have raised several times before: a living wage in Cornwall.

I think a lead should be taken by the unitary council and no employee of the council should be paid below the living wage, currently £7.45 an hour. For the council to bring all its low employees up to the living wage will add a vast sum to its wages bill in a time of austerity and straitened funds. However, with political will and skilled management this can be achieved, not over night but by phasing over time, with no resultant cuts to jobs or devastation to services. Last October, in a decision reversed the other day, the council voted to spend £300 000 raising councillors’ pay.

Additionally, the council should ensure as far as it can that every contractor and subcontractor adheres to the living wage for people employed on council premises and council work.

Decent pay for all should be the council’s determined ambition.

Back to the election manifestos
I should like to see every party and every progressive candidate in Cornwall promising to bring in the living wage for council employees and require it for others working on council premises. This is an important moral and economic issue on which we should judge the parties and candidates before voting. Low pay costs us all as it has to be topped up with tax credits and benefits. Low ‘unliving’ pay at Cornwall Council costs us all money.

It is not enough to promise. Parties and candidates should set out how they would achieve this. The practical details of investigation and implementation, including a flexible timetable for all the process, will be a measure of their seriousness about the living wage.

The council is only the start but its adopting the aim of a living wage for its employees would be an encouraging signal to the rest of Cornwall.

Let’s hear from the parties and candidates.