Conservative councillors voted down a motion from the Liberal Democrats to reverse a decision not to award workers a one-off wage supplement, worth a total of Â£13,000.
Debate during the human resources committee meeting on October 24 revolved around the current pay rates of the council’s lowest paid employees, which includes gardeners, cleaners and staff at the Turkish Baths.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Aldred led the motion to reinstate the supplement. Coun Aldred had previously labelled the Conservatives as “meanies” for voting the supplement down.“We’re saying to these guys they’re not worth the upgrade we’ve given them in previous years,” Coun Aldred (Harrogate Fairfax) said. “I just think it sends the wrong message out.”
The suggestion that lower-paid employees weren’t being “valued” drew the ire of Council leader Richard Cooper, who was standing in for regular committee member Coun Sue Lumby.
The leader accused Coun Aldred of “playing politics” with the motion.“We value all of our employees, including the lowest paid and I resent any suggestion otherwise,” he said.
He added that the current pay rate eclipses last year’s pay rate – which included a supplement – by 25 pence an hour.
In finishing the debate, committee chairman Tim Myatt (Con, High Harrogate) said that “although the motion was worthy in nature” he was concerned that it was phrased in a “misleading” way.“I worry that the wording might be misleading, (what we now pay) the lowest paid staff is above and beyond what they were receiving last year with the supplement,” he said.
The council voted to adopt a pay grade of Â£8.50 an hour this year, after a national agreement was reached between the Local Government Association and unions.
While the figure is not as high as the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended wage of Â£8.75 an hour, it is higher than the government-set national minimum wage which sits at Â£7.83.
Lachlan Leeming , Local Democracy Reporting Service