'Living Wage Accreditation - Council Fails to Lead by Example'

>> 6 June 2019

The Opposition Partnership of Aberdeenshire Council today expressed concern at a meeting of the Communities Committee over the continued refusal of Aberdeenshire Council to seek accreditation as a Living Wage Employer.

In work poverty is a serious issue, and official figures from 2016 contained within papers before the Committee on 6th June, indicate that 22% of workers in Aberdeenshire are paid less than the Living Wage. Payment of the Living Wage in Scotland is currently £9.00 per hour. The National Minimum Wage is £7.38 per hour for those aged 21 and over.

Today's Committee meeting considered the draft Aberdeenshire Child Poverty Action Plan. One of the measures to be taken by the Council is engagement with employers who are procured by the Council under contract, to carry out work to enable public services to be delivered. Whilst the Council itself is a ‘Living Wage employer’, it has historically been reluctant to enforce such a living wage condition on those it contracts with in terms of the procurement process. If it did, it would meet the criteria to become a ‘Living Wage Accredited Employer’.

Opposition Partnership members today sought reassurance that the possibility of accreditation would continue to be looked at by Aberdeenshire Council, and sought clarification over the level of resource needed. Reassurances were received that further information would be brought back to the next meeting of the Communities Committee in September 2019, with a view to find a practicable way forward.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Alison Evison (Labour, North Kincardine) stated:

“Back in the day it was a battle to get the Tory/Lib Dem led Aberdeenshire Council to agree to pay the Living Wage in November 2012, but that was only a start to what the Council could do to impact on reducing poverty. Quality employment based on 'Fair Work' principles is key in reducing the poverty experienced by many families, and the Council surely has a responsibility as a major employer to set an example to others. T

he resource required for the Council to become an accredited living wage employer would be a sound investment in the people of Aberdeenshire and show commitment to an inclusive local economy.”

Communities Committee member and Banff and District Councillor, Glen Reynolds added:

"Committee members received an update in May regarding progress towards Aberdeenshire Council becoming a 'Living Wage Accredited Employer'. The status of 'accredited' means that the Council has to ensure that all contracted suppliers with the Council guarantee that their employees are paid the living wage. It is a status that 16 Scottish Councils and 124 Scottish public sector bodies have sought and obtained. 

Unfortunately, Councillors had been advised that there was not a dedicated resource that would enable that Living Wage accreditation to be sought. That is arguably a damning indictment on the will of the Council to seriously address poverty and child poverty issues in the Shire, as experts have universally concluded that such accreditation would help reduce such appalling circumstances in the 21st century.

"Accreditation plays a significant role in reducing child poverty and in-work poverty from the concerning levels currently seen across Aberdeenshire. To not have the will and resource to support this is plain wrong."

A briefing paper to the Committee in April estimated that a cost to achieve accreditation would be £67,054 as of 2017.

Chair of the Audit Committee, Troup Councillor Ross Cassie stated:

“I fail to see how such a figure is reached. Many of the bodies in the Council Contract Register are already obliged by statute to pay the living wage, and the work necessary to engage with the other bodies could not surely lead to such a level of expenditure? 

As it stands Aberdeenshire Council are seeking to be ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ partners with those they commission and contract with."

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