I welcome the report from the Living Wage Commission today, which advocates that the UK government should make it a goal to cut the number of low paid workers by one million by 2020, and that a key way to do this is through paying the Living Wage.
Archbishop Sentamu, who chairs the commission, is clear that one key employer who should ensure they pay the Living Wage across the board is the government itself.
We’re already taking the lead on this in local government.
In Lambeth, we’ve been paying directly employed staff the London Living Wage (LLW) since 2006.
And, in 2012, Lambeth became an officially accredited London Living Wage employer, agreeing to ensure all our contractors pay the LLW as soon as feasibly possible.
Currently, the London Living Wage is set at £8.80. Unlike the minimum wage, this price is linked to what it actually costs to live in London, based on things like the cost of rent, food and transport. It’s what people need to earn just to get by.
For me it’s a moral imperative that as a council we pay the London Live Wage, and likewise that we set a positive example to other employers in the area.
We want to use our clout as the local authority to encourage other businesses in Lambeth to pay the London Living Wage and help improve the living standards of people across the borough; and in doing so, provide a real boost to our local economy.
But at present, employers are not obliged to pay the living wage, and it will take time for progress to be made in this respect. That’s why the minimum wage remains so important.
Since it was introduced by the Labour government in 1999, it has helped ensure a basic standard of living for all workers. But it’s clear that often that standard is simply not enough.
That’s why I’m pleased that our local MP, and Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, has confirmed today that Labour in government would push for bigger annual rises in the minimum wage and offer employers a 12-month tax break if they agree to pay the living wage to their staff.
I hope the government will take note of this report, and will encourage other employers to do the same.