Council votes against paying living wage

West Street.
West Street.

Boston Borough Council will not become a living wage employer – after councillors voted against the proposal.

At Monday night’s Full Council meeting councillors also opted for a zero increase in their part of the council tax precept, as well as greenlighting a £1.4 million spend on leisure, health and wellbeing services in Boston.

The Princess Royal Sports Arena.

The Princess Royal Sports Arena.

Of the 31 councillors present, just six voted in favour of an amended motion to commit to becoming a living wage employer. Seventeen voted against and eight councillors abstained from voting.

Labour’s Coun Paul Gleeson raised the issue of the living wage during discussions on the budget.

He said: “One thing we are failing to do, is to consider the very low level of wages in Boston and we do believe, across the authority, we should consider becoming a payer of the living wage.”

His amendment was to take the lowest paypoint in the council from £12,906 (on April 1, 2015) to £15,407 (£7.85 an hour) and commit the authority to being a living wage employer.

He said he understood there were 45 council employees paid below the living wage and added that it would take £75,000 to implement the proposals – which he suggested could be met from the reserves for next year.

Mr Gleeson said that, at £21,107, the average wage for those living in the borough was £3,000 lower than East Lindsey (£24,101) and £5,000 lower than South Kesteven (£26,098).

Mr Gleeson encouraged the council to take the lead in guiding other employers in paying the living wage.

Finance portfolio holder Coun Aaron Spencer said councillors should have put the suggestion forward before the debate went to full council, so officers could look at the figures.

He said he believed tax payers would end up paying more for council employees if the motion was passed.

Coun Mike Gilbert agreed, adding: “I’m not sure the way forward is to hike up wages which are paid for by council tax payers.”

The vote on the original recommendation in the budget to freeze the borough council’s tax precept at £168.39 for a Band D property was passed - 23 in favour, three against and five abstaining.

The council also voted to give £840,000 from their capital reserves to fund repairs and improvements at the Princess Royal Sports Arena, as well as £560,00 to fund energy efficiency projects at the arena and the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre.

It is understood that doing so will save £1.75m from the PRSA running costs over the next 10 years and will project an income of £2.4m over 20 years, due to the energy savings.