Basildon Council turns down living wage commitment

An Essex council has refused calls to pay its staff a minimum of the real living wage.

Basildon Borough Council’s Regeneration and Economic Development Committee voted down an opposition motion to sign up to the campaign while debating its Good Employer Charter at a meeting last night (November 18).

According to a council report, the charter aims to build a network of “good employers” which “do business responsibly” and to enable employers and employees to benefit from economic growth.

Recognised real living wage employers and service providers in Basildon are one of four four key audience groups for the charter, the report continues.

But the committee voted down a Labour amendment which would have seen the council itself sign up to the real living wage.

Labour group leader Councillor Jack Ferguson (Lab, Pitsea North-West) told the meeting: “I think it’s important that when we talk about good employment, we show leadership ourselves and if we’re to get the business community on board, we need to show leadership by being a living wage employer and paying the real living wage ourselves”.

Cllr Gary Canham (Con, Pitsea South East) reminded attendees the council paid “very near” to the real living wage of £9.90 per hour.

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Anthony Hedley (Con, Billericay West) suggested a similar motion be tabled at the next full council meeting instead.

He also encouraged officers to talk to the business community about the contents of the action plan.

He said: “You’ve invited them onto this committee and I think it’s essential that we get their buy-in, because it’s okay for the council to be a good employer but essentially what we’re trying to do is establish that there is an opportunity for our businesses in Basildon to get a bronze, silver or gold award.”

Basildon Business Group chair David Barnes said small to medium employers often did not have HR departments, so may not have the capabilities to exercise some of the practices demanded.

He suggested support for businesses such as training packs be offered from an external source.

He told the meeting: “You will find that once you start to roll, yes you will get a few big employers will sign up, but then if you want the bulk, which is the small employers, they’re going to need that little bit of extra help.”

According to the report, minor work still needs to be done to finalise administrative processes, including developing the certificates, standardising the assessment process and refining web content.

The report continues to say the charter will also target businesses which already have a strong relationship with the council, actively collect company award and recognition schemes and operate with a strong social ethos, in addition to recognised real living wage employers.

The council hopes to organise a formal launch event in January 2022, once a few employers have been signed up, the report says.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter