Calls for living wage for Newport leisure trust workers

First published in News

COUNCILLORS have called for assurances that workers transferred to a new trust to run Newport leisure services will get the living wage.

The Newport council scrutiny committee for learning caring and leisure recommended to cabinet that a trust should be the preferred option to take over city leisure services, provided the living wage applies.

A policy review from the committee said their preferred option for leisure services was for them to go to a trust, but expressed worries it could become unsustainable if council funding was cut annually.

Chris Evans, Labour Rogerstone councillor and one of the three on the committee that reviewed the project, told a meeting of the committee there was a moral question over the potential for the scheme to save tax.

“The reason we are doing this ultimately is save on VAT, tax,” he said. “There is a moral question, tax goes to pay for things.”

He suggested the endeavour may not work if the tax loophole was closed.

Cllr Evans said there were plans for a trust for the Riverfront with no subsidy, and urged for a working group to be set up as soon as possible to look at that issue.

Cllr Emma Garland, for St Julians, asked for assurances that the trust would be a living wage employer.

“I think we need a clear message to our colleagues that this needs to be sorted out before transfer," said Cllr David Mayer, committee chairman.

Cllr Evans said he was minded to withdraw the proposals to recommend unless there was a distinct undertaking to adopt the living wage. “It’s that important,” he said.

Officers informed councillors that the trust could be established by January – by which time it is thought that workers would have received the living wage.

Under so-called TUPE regulations transferred employees keep their pay and conditions.

A report to cabinet on the matter is expected March 17.

Newport council voted to become a living wage employer at Tuesday’s budget meeting – meaning low paid workers would see their wages increase to £7.65 an hour.

Currently the council has 1,600 staff earning less than the living wage, calculated by the Living Wage Foundation according to the basic cost of living in the UK.

A total of £1.04 million is likely to be put aside in 2014/15 and 2015/16 for the plan.

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