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Council Leaders sign up to a Living Wage Charter for West Yorkshire & York

WY + York LeadersWest Yorkshire and York’s six council leaders have given their backing to introducing the living wage – but say the money is not the most important issue.

Launching their low pay charter – ‘No Silver Bullet - Doing more to support our lower paid workers’ – the leaders of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield, and York said tackling low pay is one aspect of their concern.

The Charter sets out 10 recommendations for the region, where the councils can take a leadership role. However it acknowledges that true success will only come if private sector employers also recognise improvements in pay, economic resilience and good future growth.

 Download the Charter (pdf file 978KB opens in new window).

Ethical

West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair, Cllr Peter Box said the charter concentrated on three dimensions – pay, effects not linked to salary, and the role of councils as leaders in society.

He said: “We are already ethical employers. However, we must look at how we work and our behaviours and systems through a new lens to make sure that at all points we are conscious of the needs of our lowest paid.

“This is critical if the people that fill these roles are to be supported to develop and progress in an environment where local authorities are changing rapidly. And what’s more, it is critical to the success of the future of local government. As such, there is nothing in this report that cannot be actioned and will not, when actioned, have a positive effect on our lowest paid.”

‘No Silver Bullet’s’ pay dimension concentrates on those Councils that do not already do so, introducing the living wage by the end of the 2016/17 financial year. It also calls upon the Councils to use their influence to encourage local and regional businesses to do the same.

Skills and opportunity

Its non-pay dimension focuses on communicating the positive relationship between skills and opportunity, and ensuring that lower paid staff are supported to reach their potential through personal and professional development. This also includes reviewing HR policies for their impact on lower paid workers, with particular focus on reducing institutional barriers to career progression.

The Charter’s commitments around councils in society include applying a social value policy in procurement and commissioning of services, guarding against inappropriate zero-hours contracts, and driving a “good growth” agenda.

Setting an example

Kirklees Council leader Cllr David Sheard said he was proud of the progress made by the WYCA Lower Paid Workers Group, which is chaired by Kirklees Director Ruth Redfern.

Cllr Sheard said: “It is important that this is not seen as something only benefiting our own employees - by setting an example and encouraging other local organisations to do the same, we will hopefully help a lot more people in the region to take a step out of poverty.

“It also means that this money will be filtering down to those who are in greater need and who will feel the greater benefit. It will be spent locally to boost our economy, supporting business and helping us to make us a thriving region in which to live, work and invest.”

All six council leaders have backed the Charter which will now go back to individual local authorities to pick up the recommendations.

‘No Silver Bullet - Doing more to support our lower paid workers’ contains 10 recommendations. These are:

  1. For those who have not implemented a living wage policy - Apply a managed and staggered approach to reaching a living wage by removing the bottom two pay scales for the two years 2015/16 and 2016/17
  2. Review existing pension information to make the case for membership from a low pay perspective and proactively target its communication at lower paid workers to drive up-take.
  3. Commit to proactively communicating the positive relationship between skills and opportunity; and to ensuring that lower paid staff are supported to reach their potential through implementation of a strategy for inclusive personal and professional development.
  4. Proof all HR policies for their impact on lower paid workers, with particular focus on progression and reducing institutional barriers such as constrained career structures.
  5. Deliver excellent management and leadership practices as standard across the organisation, with specific focus on equipping those who manage lower paid workers with the skills and systems they need.
  6. Agree to the principle of investing in and promoting a responsive employee benefits package that is accessible and communicated to target groups consistently, frequently and through the right channels, and that complements the approach in individual Districts to directly support lower paid workers to stretch their take-home pay. Wherever possible, we will use our collective leverage to broker deals with providers.
  7. Collaborate across the WYCA area to streamline health and wellbeing activities, learn from good practice and target lower paid workers to increase participation.
  8. Apply Social Value policy, prioritising in the first instance those commissioned services where low pay prevails; and work collaboratively to influence others to do the same.
  9. Guard against inappropriate use of zero hours contracts and protect casual workers from effects of low pay, concentrating on our own workforces and commissioned services.
  10. Use local authority influence and local leadership to tackle low pay across the West Yorkshire Combined Authority area in pursuit of a ‘good growth’ agenda.
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