I WAS saddened, if not surprised, by Mr Paulson’s response in last week’s Dispatch (‘How Will Council Pay For Boost To Workers’ Wages?’) to the news that Ashfield District Council had signed up to the Living Wage (a promise to ensure that all employees receive at least £7.45 per hour, around £275 per week or £14,300 p.a.).
He argued that this was unfair since other workers, particularly in the private sector, won’t receive it too. Perhaps Mr Paulson doesn’t know that public sector workers are in the third year of having received no pay rise whatsoever, meaning that they’ve seen their incomes cut in real terms. Has that made anyone else feel happier about their lot? Thought not.
It is sad, indeed, when the classic divide and rule tactics employed by the Tories and the Lib Dems gain any traction. But what it does best is to betray a certain lack of imagination in this kind of thinking, that there is no alternative than to accept that low pay is inevitable, whilst having nothing to say about the £107,500 p.a. tax cut handed to 8,000 multi-millionaires by George Osborne.
If anyone can explain to me what’s fair about VAT being raised to 20% and pay being held down for everyone else to fund a tax cut the size of which the rest of us could hardly dream of ever receiving as a salary, let alone as a tax bill, then I’ll think paying people enough simply to get by is unfair.
Low pay is hardly a badge of honour for those unlucky enough to be included in that bracket. And if someone manages to secure a fair — if still modest — pay settlement then how is the unfair treatment of others a sensible reason to oppose it?
A commitment to the Living Wage shows what can be done, beyond a race to the bottom that will do nothing for anyone struggling now or in the future.
Applying the same ‘logic’, if you’re with a friend and they’re attacked and mugged, the only fair thing to do would be not to help your friend fight off the mugger, but to insist that you hand over your own wallet too. And, I suppose, if someone’s seriously ill, don’t try and cure them because you’ll only make the dead jealous.
There is a wider practical purpose to this move. Putting more money in the hands of low paid workers makes perfect economic sense. Where will this money be spent? It will be spent in local shops and that can only help to maintain the viability of our town centres. Or, since gas prices have risen 31% in the past three years, it might be spent on luxuries like keeping warm.
Where will the lucky 8,000 multi-millionaires spend their extra £107,500? It’s just a hunch I have but I’m guessing it won’t be in any shop in Hucknall.
Even at the level of their new ‘unfair’ salary, council staff would have to work for seven and half years merely to earn the same amount that is being given away as an unearned tax cut each year to people who are hardly struggling. We are not all in it together, are we?
We all have to ask ourselves who’s side we are truly on? Low paid workers or millionaires? I know where I, Hucknall’s other district councillors and those who will contest the Notts County Council elections for Labour next May stand. Can Mr Paulson tell us who he stands by?
COUN JIM GRUNDY (Lab),
Hucknall member of Ashfield