I am quite happy to see Ealing Council being broadly supportive of higher wages for the low paid but I am not sure to what extent it should be a priority if it means taking cash from frontline services for what is essentially virtue signalling by businesses and the council.
Yesterdayâ€™s announcement of Â£200K in business rates relief for local businesses looks good on the face of it but is in reality just a bung to Citizens UK which is a churchy advocacy movement. All well and good but there is no way that Ealing Council could ever justify a Â£100K a year grant of unrestricted funds to Citizens UK and this looks all too much like a back door way of supporting an advocacy group rather than a boon to local businesses. There will be lots of voluntary organisations which do work directly with needy people in Ealing who will wonder why Ealing council has taken millions of Pounds off them in recent years but is now bunging Citizens UK Â£200K.
The money that the council is diverting from vital services such as childrensâ€™ services is going to be used to pay Â£500 a year fees for businesses to be accredited by what is effectively a campaign or subsidiary of Citizens UK called the Living Wage Foundation. This is really just a trading name of Citizens UK which is constituted as a charity.
Citizens UK sucks and blows about Â£1 million per annum so this new source of funds for Citizens UK is worth about 10% of their total income for two years â€“ a good deal for them if Ealing businesses take it up.
This exercise is just virtue signalling on the public purse. The Council itself says:
Ealing Council is marking its intention to become a Living Wage Borough
Great, Â£200K worth of marking. More expensive even than Bassam Mahfouzâ€™s Christmas tree which was Â£13K spent signalling the council’s recycling credentials. Next time Julian Bell tells you how heartbroken he is over cuts ask him how he found this Â£200K.