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By Rob George Thursday 31 January 2013 Updated: 31/01 16:25
THE PROPOSED introduction of the living wage at Worcester City Council could place huge pressure on its cash-strapped finances, councillors have been warned.
Council chiefs made the stark claim during a heated debate about enforcing the £7.45 an hour wage at a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee on Tuesday (January 29).
Officers revealed 21 council staff currently earning less than the living wage would face an average 11 per cent pay rise if it was introduced.
Any implementation this year would also occur during a pay freeze for staff agreed following talks between the council and unions.
A report to the committee also said the living wage would cost the council £15,500 in the first 12 months and as much as £75,000 over the next five years.
Coun Joy Squires (Lab, Arboretum), who had proposed the council look at introducing the living wage last November, said she was disappointed with the report.
"I saw this as a practical way of putting money in the pockets of people who would then spend it in the city," she added.
But Coun Robert Rowden (Con, Battenhall) said: "When this was first raised in November I said it would have unintended consequences.
"At a time where we should be creating jobs I fear this would be a jobs for destruction scheme and that would be a great pity."
Council leader Coun Simon Geraghty (Cons/St Clement) backed the idea of a living wage but raised concerns about introducing it during what he described as a 'tough financial environment'.
But Labour's financial spokesman Coun Richard Boorn attacked the report compiled by council officers.
"This is a blinkered view of something that is very important to many people in this county. This council should have some guts and start paying the living wage," he added.
Members of the committee will meet again on Tuesday (February 5) to agree a recommendation which will be debated at a council meeting on February 19.
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