By Kirsten de Keyser
Political blogger and campaigner
On Tuesday 9 December the OECD, the west’s leading economic think tank, dismissed the concept of trickle-down economics as it found that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.
This is a staggering assertion and the report makes for required reading during these dark December evenings. Granted, the economically enlightened would already have guessed that stretching the inequality elastic to pinging point could not be healthy. But reducing the size of an entire economy by 20%? That’s calamitous, to be sure.
So how do we compare here in Camden? Acutely socially aware, borne out by a Labour controlled Council, a great hooray, a lot of back slapping and town hall flag hoisting went on back in October 2012. Green Party Councillor Maya de Souza had been one of the instigators of the Council’s commitment to pay all staff the London Living Wage and a justly proud Camden became one of London’s first boroughs to be accredited as a LLW Employer by the Living Wage Foundation.
And congratulations were certainly in order. Despite swingeing slashing of budgets across the board, Camden Council had somehow found a way to do the right thing; reducing the income inequality of its workers by lifting the lowest paid up to the London Living Wage.
‘Please can I have some more Sir?’
But despite all the 2012 fanfare and fireworks, it now transpires that the much trumpeted LLW commitment will not be fully met for another two years. The excuse is that the pay increase cannot be added into existing contracts, for legal or other administrative reasons. For example, Camden’s dinner ladies will not be paid a living wage until 2016 – four years after the pledge was made.
And that’s a disgrace. Camden Council should simply top up wages to meet the London Living Wage for all staff. If an organisation cannot pay its staff enough to live on, it should not be in business. Passing the buck to the DWP Tax Credit budget or the Housing Benefit department is not only immoral, it is incompetent.
The Green Party of England and Wales has called for the statutory minimum wage to be immediately lifted to Living Wage levels and for a £10 per hour minimum wage for all by 2020. And not a moment too soon.