Labour blocks living wage

Labour blocks living wage in Warrington

Hugh Caffrey, north-west Socialist Party

In the latest anti-democratic twist by Warrington’s Labour leadership, a serious proposal for paying the Living Wage as a minimum to council staff was blocked before it could go to a full council meeting.

Rebel anti-cuts councillor Kevin Bennett, suspended from the Labour group for opposing cuts to services, had prepared costed proposals on how the Living Wage could be paid to Warrington council’s workforce.

Half of the estimated £400,000 increase in pay for low-paid staff could be covered by the ‘savings’ made in a recent workforce restructuring (involving cuts which Kevin spoke out against in the local press at the time). The other half could be covered by not giving top council bosses the whacking pay rises which were part of that restructure!

Presented with an affordable plan to benefit low-paid council staff rather than the highly-paid top council bosses, Warrington’s Labour group yet again behaved like underhanded Tories.

Kevin explains:

“I tabled a perfectly legitimate question, asking for the council to reconsider introducing the Living Wage, a scheme which would see our lowest paid workers get an increase in their pay packets.

“To the astonishment of assembled councillors at Monday night’s meeting, it was revealed that a member of the council leadership had approached the council solicitor and secretly arranged for my question to be struck off the order paper”.

Labour responded in the local press by saying that it’s down to the mayor to decide what’s discussed at council meetings, and that the Labour group could quash such questions anyway.

Such is New Labour in power – willingly enforcing austerity and refusing to countenance any alternative, even fully-costed proposals to benefit low-paid workers.

Faced with such anti-democratic gagging manoeuvres, Kevin walked out of the council meeting in protest and is now pursuing complaints against those responsible.

Kevin adds:

“I am disgusted at this latest turn of events and am calling for a full investigation. It’s now absolutely clear to me that there is a concerted attempt by this council leadership to gag the voices of people in Fairfield and Howley, who I represent.”

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This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 October 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.