Dorset Council rejects proposal to increase salary of lowest paid staff

A MOVE to increase the pay of those at the bottom of the salary scale at Dorset Council has been rejected, but may be looked at again in the future.

The current lowest pay level is about £17,800 a year, roughly nine times less than the annual salary of chief executive Matt Prosser.

The council’s 4,512 staff are not expected to get an annual pay increase this year.

The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Nick Ireland asked last week’s full council meeting to start the process of paying what is known as a ‘real living wage’ to its lowest paid staff, defined by the Living Wage Foundation.

He said that the council still employed staff on less than the real living wage which, if implemented, would mean an increase of two pay bands for the lowest paid to bring them up to the standard.

He said the difference would be £720 extra a year.

“That doesn’t sound much… but it can make a real difference for those who have to subsist, and subsist is the word we should be using, on our minimum wage,” said Cllr Ireland.

A paper before the council said that staff who might be on the lowest pay grade include catering assistants, delivery and collection drivers, general assistants and school crossing patrol staff.

Cllr Peter Wharf, who holds the staffing brief, said he wouldn’t necessarily disagree with increasing minimum wages but the issue needed a separate debate when HR and finance directors could be present and armed with the facts.

Weymouth councillor Howard Legg said that it was right that the council improved its pay offer to the lowest paid. He said the amendment was not asking for immediate change, but a move towards it and was a statement of intent.

Council leader Spencer Flower said he acknowledged the point of the amendment and was happy to take the idea and look at it as part of future discussions.

Portland councillor Paul Kimber, the council’s only Labour member and a former trade union official, also supported the call to increase the income of the lowest paid.

He said there had to be an incentive for people to do the jobs the authority needed doing and to retain them.

Cllr Ireland’s amendment was lost when put to the vote 47-27 with five councillors abstaining.

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

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