Redbridge Council not committing to London ‘living wage’ championed by Boris Johnson

The “living wage” championed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson as providing a “decent standard of living” is not being paid to all Redbridge Council employees.

The council has not followed nearly 200 London employers to commit to paying the minimum rate of �8.55 per hour to all workers.

Other authorities including the Greater London Authority (GLA) and London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Islington are joining the scheme, which uses London income averages, basic living costs and a protective buffer to calculate the living wage.

Mr Johnson is urging more employers to commit to the new rate, which rose from �8.30 on Monday.

He said: “By building motivated, dedicated work forces, the living wage helps businesses to boost the bottom line and ensures that hard-working people who contribute to London’s success can enjoy a decent standard of living.”

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But Redbridge Council leader Cllr Keith Prince said the changing rate could have a “catastrophic effect” on finances.

He added: “Maybe if we could see the formula behind it based on the Retail Price Index or Consumer Price Index, it would be different.

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“But at the moment, if you sign up to it you are potentially liable to be hit with an arbitrary figure at any time.

“For an employer of our size with about 9,000 employees, that could have a catastrophic effect on our finances.

“We agree to the principle of the living wage and think it’s a good thing but I don’t think there are many employees earning below it at the moment.”

In response to a freedom of information request in June, the council said less than two per cent of staff would be earning under �8.30 an hour when “major changes to employment terms and conditions” were completed.

The figure did not include casual staff and the changes were not specified.

Labour group leader Cllr Jas Athwal said the council needs to “do its homework” before ruling out the living wage as living costs rise.

He added: “It’s something we should be aspiring towards and we need to know exactly how many of our employees would be affected.”

Havering and Redbridge London Assembly member Roger Evans said he “sympathised” with the council’s position.

He added: “Paying for the living wage could lead to service cuts elsewhere and they need to balance their books.”

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