Conservatives' Living Wage Incentive Scheme becomes council policy

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Conservative councillors' proposal for a Greenwich Living Wage Incentive Scheme has been adopted as official council policy, with thousands of low-paid employees in the borough set to benefit as a result.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Cllr Matt Hartley proposed the Incentive Scheme, which would see one-off Business Rate discounts for employers who commit to paying the London Living Wage of at least £9.15 an hour to all their employees, in a motion for last night's council meeting. The move following the London Borough of Brent's plan to use new powers to cut business rates granted by the Conservative-led government's Localism Act to help fight low pay.

The motion proposing the Scheme, seconded by Eltham South Cllr Nuala Geary, was debated at Woolwich Town Hall last night.

Cllr Matt Hartley, who is also the Conservatives' Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the Greenwich Living Wage Incentive Scheme I proposed has now become council policy. This could potentially benefit thousands of low-paid employees in Greenwich, and will make a real difference in our shared fight against low pay.

"I hope the Business Rate discounts now on offer act as a gentle nudge to the many businesses in our borough who are beginning to see the benefits of becoming Living Wage employers - and I look forward to making the case directly to them in the coming months.

"When employers pay a living wage, everybody wins. It's good for the employee and their families, good for the employer who gains a more financially secure, more productive work force, and good for society as a whole - reducing the welfare bill and helping us tackle the deficit. It is also the socially just thing to do, and a cause that all parties should continue to champion."

The Labour leadership of Greenwich council came under fire this week for attempting to claim credit for the proposal, with Labour Leader Cllr Denise Hyland rushing through a formal decision to hurriedly implement the scheme in full a day before the vote on the Conservative motion. Before the decision had even been taken, an article appeared at the Leader's personal request on the front page of the council-owned Greenwich Time newspaper, in what Cllr Hartley called a "desperate attempt to pass the scheme off as the leadership's own initiative".

Despite the row, the parties were able to strike a deal which secured cross-party passage of an amended motion, which also included a commitment to take on board the views of local businesses as the Incentive Scheme is implemented - an element of Conservative councillors' original motion that had been lost in the Labour leadership's rush to claim credit.

Read more on Matt Hartley's blog for Greenwich.co.uk853's blog on events of the last week and the Financial Times and News Shopper coverage of local Conservative councillors' proposals.