Cllr Matt Hartley proposes Living Wage Incentive Scheme

Greenwich council is being urged to take bolder action on low pay, with Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich Matt Hartley set to propose a new scheme to encourage employers in the borough to pay the London Living Wage. Cllr Hartley, who is also deputy leader of the opposition on Greenwich council, says his plan for a Living Wage Incentive Scheme could make a “huge difference” to thousands of local residents at no extra cost to the council taxpayer.

While the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Greenwich has fallen by 39 percent since 2010*, more than one in five jobs in the borough (21 percent) are paid less than the London Living Wage** – the amount calculated as necessary to earn enough to cover the basic cost of living, currently set at £9.15 an hour. The rate is higher than the national minimum wage of £6.50 an hour for adults and £5.13 for those aged 18 to 21.

In November, Labour-run Brent council became the first local authority in the country to announce plans to use new powers granted by the Conservative-led government in 2011 to offer a one-off discount on business rates to employers who commit to pay at least the London Living Wage to all of their employees.

At a council meeting next week Cllr Hartley and other Conservative councillors will call on Greenwich council to develop proposals for its own Living Wage Incentive Scheme based on the same model, to bring similar benefits to Greenwich residents and businesses. The costs of the one-off discounts would be funded 50 percent by central government, 20 percent by the Greater London Authority and 30 percent by the council itself. Opposition councillors believe the council’s 30 percent share could be met at no extra cost to the taxpayer from existing budgets, by prioritising the fight against low pay over what have been dubbed ‘vanity projects’ such as Greenwich Time and potentially huge marketing costs for the second Tall Ships Regatta in 2017.

Cllr Matt Hartley, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, said: “Paying the Living Wage is a win-win – it’s good for employees and their families, and good for local businesses too, giving them a more financially secure workforce and helping them to retain the best people. There are also huge benefits for society as a whole, as tackling low pay reduces the strain on the welfare system.

“I want to see Greenwich lead the way in the fight against low pay, and my proposal for a Living Wage Incentive Scheme would be a bold move that would make a huge difference to thousands of residents in Greenwich. This is one example of an issue where there seems to be a political consensus in our borough – so I hope Labour councillors will put party politics to one side and support my plan in the council chamber next week.”

The motion calling for a Living Wage Incentive Scheme will be proposed by Cllr Hartley and seconded by Eltham South councillor Nuala Geary at the next meeting of Greenwich on 28th January at Woolwich Town Hall.

The move also follows revelations that 11 percent of people employed by Greenwich council, either directly or indirectly through its complex web of subsidiary companies such as GS Plus Ltd and GSS Ltd, are paid less than the London Living Wage (LLW). The figures, revealed in an answer to questioning at a council meeting in December, led Cllr Hartley to repeat his call for council leader Denise Hyland to set a target end date by which the council will expect all council-owned subsidiaries to pay the LLW rate.