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Ealing and Northfield High tax, low pay

London Living Wage debate at full council

TownhallThe meat of last night’s full council meeting was two debates: one on the London Living Wage and one on Holocaust Memorial Day. The later was entirely uncontroversial and was a good opportunity for all sides to restate their commitment to remembering genocide and passing this knowledge on to the young.

The London Living Wage debate was less so. The Labour group had put up a motion which made a commitment to adopting the London Living Wage and working to ensuring that our whole supply chain adopted it (even if their workforce is not in London). The LibDems upped the anti by trying to extend the commitment to young people. Although the Conservative group, and Leader Jason Stacey in particular, are in favour of making sure that people are properly paid there were real reservations about trying to push this (the LLW) down our supply chain. The council needs to get on with delivering its priorities, like keeping the council tax under control, and not get side tracked with trying to force subcontractors to pay London pay rates to someone working on a remote site in Wales say.

The Tory group and the 3 LibDems voted for the Tory motion with the Labour group being unable to support it:

This Council notes that all employees subject to the pay and conditions of Ealing Council are paid at or above the level of the London Living Wage. This Council believes that all members of our community have the right to earn a living wage. As community leaders this Council will work with partners in seeking to deliver a living wage across Ealing.

Many in the Tory group were wondering why the Labour group was proposing their motion now when they are in opposition rather than implementing it a year ago when they were still in power. Could it be that they didn’t want to be constrained whilst they were still responsible for the bills but now that they are in opposition they can be as irresponsible as they like?

I had prepared a speech on this subject as it is one of my specialist subjects. Unfortunately I did not have the chance to deliver it as we ran out of time. Labour councillors Mahfouz and Bell seemed particularly keen to hear me speak and it is gratifying to know that I have such an ardent fan base amongst the Labour group. Indeed I was a bit disappointed that they failed to quote the blog having done so for the previous two meetings running. Rather than disappoint my fans here is what I would have said:

This year’s London Living Wage of £7.05 was announced by the London Mayor on 18th May. We would be very unwise I think to take lessons in economics from the most economically illiterate man in British politics.

This is the man who raised cash fares on public transport by 33% in January.

This is the man who raised the GLA precept by 13.3% last year.

This is the man who has increased the GLA precept by 175% since the GLA was created only seven short years ago.

In September the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published this report that found that two million households in England struggle to pay their council tax each year. The report found that the majority of people having difficulties paying their council tax are working people on low incomes and in low-value housing. The report found that one in four households in band A receives a summons and that one in seven in band B does.

Is this any surprise when this council under a Labour administration raised council tax by 25% in 2003 and has raised council tax by 71% this century so far?

And it is not just the Labour Mayor and Labour councils that tax the poor so hard.

In October another piece of work paid for by the JRF found that the Labour government’s tax and benefits reforms had weakened work incentives:

  • since Labour came to power someone on benefit trying to improve themselves by working harder gets to keep 2.5p less of each extra £1 they earn
  • over 2 million workers would lose more than half of any increase in earnings to taxes and reduced benefits
  • of these some 160,000 would lose more than 90p of each extra £1 they earned.

What is it you lot [Note that “you lot” is Tory group code for Labour or the Labour group] call Gordon Brown now? The Great Clunking Fist. The Great Clunking Fist coming down on the heads of the poor.

There is no point in the state legislating for high wages and then just confiscating them all again in taxes.

The best thing that this council, the London Mayor and Gordon Brown can do to get off the backs of the poor is to control our costs and keep all taxes low.

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