24 August 2013

Let’s begin with the good news: better enforcement of the minimum wage and the promotion of the living wage, both important for low-pay Cornwall.

Minimum wage
The Tory Libdem government has decided to name and shame companies that fail to pay the legal minimum wage and make it easier to fine them.

I can’t think why Labour did not do introduce an effective enforcement regime when the wage was introduced in 1999 or in the following years; a signal failure.

Of course, naming and shaming is not enough. It is a welcome reform and the Tory Libdem government are to be congratulated warmly but hefty fines should be imposed too.

From this October the minimum wage will be £6.31 an hour for adults of 21 and over.

Living wage
The second good news is that Labour appears to be firming its approach to the living wage. The party has already pledged to insist government contracts include the living wage and to give tax breaks to living wage companies: see here and here. These are serious promises that go beyond merely mouthing support for the living wage. Now Ed Miliband has rightly said low wages are a major issue and the living wage should be a priority for the next Labour government.

Soaring debt
And now for the unhappy news, the numbers of people in Cornwall falling into debt to the council.

The Money Advice Trust has announced that last financial year Cornwall Council referred debts from 16 781 domestic properties to bailiffs for collection, along with 1331 business ones. Of these debts, domestic debts were mostly for council tax arrears and business ones about business rates arrears.

The Money Advice Trust got its information from this Freedom of Information request that it made ( 3858196, February 2130). The council answer to that request gives additional information and shows a vast increase between 2010/11 and 2012/13.

While some of the debts are probably “won’t pay” ones, many are likely to be “can’t pay” ones.