Saturday, 6 October 2012

Living Wage - Dead

A bit more on the living wage at the Labour party conference from Bristol Mayoral candidate and NHS diversity manager Marvin Rees:
In Manchester, he said: "My opponents have attacked me for saying I want a living wage for Bristol. It says more about them than it does about the living wage.
"They haven't got a clue about the hardships faced by thousands of families.
"They are out of touch with the people living on my street. They don't speak for them. We will."
When I last wrote about this, Rees hadn't explained how he was going to fund giving council staff a raise to £7.20 an hour if they earn less than that. It transpired that he is planning on cutting an unspecified number of "consultants" to cover the approximate £1M cost per year of doing this. Now you should only be bringing consultants on board for a specific, time-bound piece of work (i.e. a project) or to cover a short-term skills gap, so assuming that the council is managing its resources effectively, these people will be going when their contract is up. After that time, their cost won't be in a budget so it isn't a saving. If he gets rid of them during their contract, then what projects or services won't be delivered? This is probably all academic anyway as there is a problem:
Bristol City Council is facing budget cuts of £15m more than had been expected, the BBC has learned. 
The city's new mayor, due to be elected in November, will be asked to sign off cuts of £25m from next year's budget - a 7% cut from the current £366m budget.
Previously a sum of £10m had been agreed.  
A number of reasons are believed to be behind the proposed cuts, including less money due to come in from central government and more staff redundancy payments at the Liberal Democrat-led authority.
These cuts are in the context of a 2.5% increase in council tax. Now when Rees stated that his opponents attacked him for wanting a living wage, what they actually said was along the lines of "we want to look at what we can do for the lowest paid council workers but there's no way that we can promise anything". That's fair enough and was sensible given the further budget cuts that have since emerged. That leaves Rees, the favourite to win the election, with an undeliverable and, given the council tax increase, redundancies, and extra cuts, a rather unpalatable manifesto pledge.

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