Town Hall to press for living wage for all

Preston landmarks Preston Town Hall
Preston landmarks Preston Town Hall
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Town Hall chiefs are set to ask the government for powers to make all local employers pay the living wage.

Councillors will discuss the “radical” proposal at today’s full council meeting, to investigate how the idea could raise living standards and improve growth and competitiveness.

Bosses stressed the plans were in the very early stages, but hope to follow the example set in some American cities.

Coun Matthew Brown, cabinet member for social justice, inclusion and policy initiatives, said: “Since our administration took control of the council three years ago we have been quite aggressively pursuing the living wage and we have managed to bring a number of major employers on board.

“But it’s a voluntary approach and as much as we can try to pressure employers to do it, we can’t make them.

“So it’s likely to be around trying to make sure there’s a blanket coverage and everyone within the city receives the living wage.”

He said if the proposal went ahead, the authority would look to bring other councils behind it before the submission.

Coun Brown said: “It’s very early days, but it’s something we would like to do if we can.

“What’s inspired me is what’s happening in America in cities like Seattle, where they have passed a law that everybody receives $15 an hour.”

Explaining the idea, he said: “The proposal would be that we ask the government to give us the powers to set a supplement to the minimum wage to the living wage level, and we would have a law to do that.

“We would ask for some of the benefits to the treasury to come back, because small employers especially might have some issues with raising pay levels.

“And we will consult with the business community.”

Coun Brown said more money would be paid in tax if people had higher wages, and there would be savings to benefits like tax credits, council tax benefit and housing benefit.

He said: “What we’re finding at the moment is the majority of people who are claiming housing benefit are in receipt of it because their employers pay them poverty wages.”