Council introduces Living Wage

Published on: Wednesday, 04-March-2015

Councillors in Knowsley have agreed to introduce the Living Wage, freeze Council Tax and make significant investments to make the borough sustainable.

They made the commitments at tonight’s council meeting (Wednesday 4 March) as they agreed the authority’s budget for 2015/16.

It is anticipated that around 700 low-paid council employees will receive a pay rise through the introduction of the Living Wage when the policy is implemented in October.

The Council Tax freeze for 2015/16 means that residents in the borough will again be paying the same amount as they did in 2010/11. Council Tax bills in Knowsley are now 31% lower than the national average.

The council will continue to make significant investments in key areas, including:

·         An extra £9m for social care services;

·         £7.8m invested in town centres to deliver jobs, business expansion and housing;

·         Increased funding for the Emergency Support Scheme;

·         Additional support for Knowsley Foodbank; and

·         Multi-million pound infrastructure investment in highways and restoring empty homes.

The investments will be made despite Knowsley facing the largest reduction in ‘spending power’ in the country with a cut of £169 (5.8%) per dwelling compared to the average cut across England of £36 (1.7%) per dwelling. The council faces Government funding cuts of around £31m over the next two years.

As a result, in order to balance the 2015/16 budget, councillors have tonight agreed a second phase of savings of £3.8m to be implemented over the next two years, following Cabinet approval of the first phase of £8.4m savings in December.

The second phase of savings will see around 123 job losses and a number of service reductions across the council.

The council has consulted with local trade unions and affected staff and is hopeful that the number of compulsory redundancies can be minimised wherever possible by redeployment, early retirement, voluntary redundancy and the deletion of vacant posts.

Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and IT, Cllr Norman Keats, said: “Setting our budget becomes more and more difficult each year, as the impact of the Government’s funding cuts hits Knowsley harder and harder.

“We regret having to make any reductions in services or lose any jobs in this council, but we have to deal with the massive cuts in funding in the best way we can.  Every decision is made with the interests of Knowsley residents at the forefront of our minds.

“We recognise that it is the people on the lowest incomes who feel the effect of these Government cuts the most and that is why we have taken steps in this budget to support them by freezing Council Tax once again. This means people in Knowsley are paying the same in 2015 as they were in 2010 which, when you take inflation into account, is a saving of around 17% on their bills in that time.

“I am delighted that around 700 low-paid members of council staff will benefit from our decision to become a Living Wage employer. When you consider that we have also reduced our senior management costs by £9m since 2010, it shows clearly our commitment to offering support and protection to those people who need it the most.

“We are also determined to do the right thing for our communities by making these significant investments in the infrastructure of our borough to make sure that it is sustainable for the future.”