South Ribble Council leader "appalled" by how much apprentices were being paid

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Every South Ribble Borough Council employee will earn the 'real' living wage from April.

The authority voted unanimously to support the move as members set the council’s budget for the year ahead.

Papers presented to the meeting state that an “hourly supplement is payable to the lowest paid staff” in order for the borough to meet a commitment to become a living wage-accredited employer.

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The salary is set by the independent Living Wage Foundation (LWF) and is designed to reflect the true cost of living. It currently stands at £9.30 an hour and is 58p an hour more than the legal minimum wage - which is confusingly now known as the “national living wage”.

South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul FosterSouth Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster
South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster | other

The LWF standard guarantees an annual income of £17,942 for full-time employees.

The borough will also pay that rate to apprentices from their second year with the authority, while first-year apprentices will receive the legal minimum wage for over-25s - currently £8.72 an hour - whatever their age.

Labour council leader Paul Foster said he had been “appalled” to discover how much some teenage apprentices were being paid by the authority.

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“It was as little as £4 an hour - just because you’re 16 or 17 and [apparently] don’t need any more money to live.

“For the majority of apprentices [the change] will mean a doubling of their pay,” Cllr Foster said.

Budget papers show that the authority’s most senior employee - the chief executive - has a pay band of between £103,000 and £122,000. That is more than six and a half times the salary of the lowest-paid employee.

The median salary for South Ribble staff is £25,047.

The authority also agreed to reinstate an arrangement - phased out since 2014 - which sees anybody made compulsorily redundant by the council receive 2.2 times their statutory payment entitlement. The head of paid service will also have the discretion to increase the award paid to people taking voluntary redundancy by up to the same level.

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Stressing that there were no plans for any voluntary or compulsory redundancies at the authority, Cllr Foster said: “Local government staff are not the best paid, but they give everything. We believe in and will support our staff.”

A UNISON representative, Mike Shaw said the move “means a lot” to the union’s members.