Labour’s surprise over U-turn on workers’ pay

Coun Matthew Tomlinson
Coun Matthew Tomlinson

South Ribble’s Labour councillors have spoken of their shock after an unexpected U-turn by the Tories over workers’ pay.

The opposition group had put forward a motion for South Ribble to become a Living Wage council, which was shot down by the leading Conservative administration.

But now the council’s cabinet is introducing of a supplement to lower-graded posts, to bring them in line with the Living Wage.

The Labour group has welcomed the move, but says it still doesn’t go far enough.

Opposition leader, Coun Matthew Tomlinson, said: “We do welcome this; what an amazing turnaround in just a few weeks – well done.

“It stops a little bit short of becoming a Living Wage council, but we recognise it as a big step forward.”

Coun Mick Titherington, Labour representative for Leyland’s Golden Hill ward, described it as a ‘road to Damascus conversion’.

“Of course any move to help the lower paid has to be welcomed,” he said.

“But the Tory proposal is not about adopting the Living Wage principle, which we called for. It offers only a supplement that can be withdrawn at any time if the grade rate increases through cost of living rises.”

The report, which went before full council, recognised the council had employees that were paid above the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour, but below the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour.

It proposed the introduction of a supplement to lower-graded posts to bring them in line with the Living Wage and to link the supplement to any changes in the Living Wage.

Coun Titherington added: “Nothing surprises me with the Tories, but only weeks after they unanimously rejected all of our proposals, they have done a U-turn.

“One can only assume they have had their strings pulled by their national leaders who are running scared of public opinion as people begin to see through their divisive and unfair policies.”

Leader of the council, Coun Margaret Smith, said introducing a supplement would negate any impact on other grades, so not lead to a general increase in wage levels.

She added: “I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind. The reason it was originally rejected was because we didn’t think it was something required by this council.

“We think the amendment we have put forward is right.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Coun David Howarth, said: “We’re talking about real people’s lives, and we’re talking about people on the lowest incomes. Have some respect.

“I find it sad we need this Punch and Judy politics show.”