February feels a distant memory. Back then, the Conservative Party released a report called Labour’s Two Nations, attacking Labour’s 13 year record on inequality. Britain had become (they suggested) a society of low taxation on the rich and high marginal rates on the poor; under Labour, risky personal lending inflating a housing fantasy replaced prudent saving and improving housing affordability.
So do the Conservatives now care deeply about inequality? Darren Johnson put the London Assembly Conservatives to the test this week, proposing that the Mayor of London implement Cameron’s policy of a maximum 20:1 pay ratio in the Greater London Authority group.
Here’s the response of the Conservatives:
In case you’re fooled into thinking that Darren and the Greens are ignoring the low paid, read Darren’s arguments in The Guardian. If we’re all in this together, shouldn’t government bodies ensure that the lowest paid receive a living wage whilst preventing spiralling pay at the top of the scale?
The Government raised the national minimum wage today to £5.80 per hour, a welcome 7p extra for Britain’s working poor. But here in London, and in many other expensive parts of the country, it’s still far too low.
The London Living Wage, calculated by GLA Economics to meet basic living costs, currently stands at £7.60 per hour, almost £2 an hour more! Just imagine earning 23% less than the amount you’d need just to get by. Or imagine working an extra 12 hours per week to make ends meet.
Working poverty accounts for almost half of all child poverty in this city, and one fifth of all London workers – almost 400,000 people – earn less than the Living Wage. That goes up to 47% for part time workers.
Until everyone – especially public bodies and the Government itself – pays the Living Wage or above, we’re failing people and families that are trying to earn a decent life. Darren Johnson has called on the Government to follow the example set by the likes of the GLA, the London Borough of Southwark and even the Royal Bank of Scotland. No small coincidence that it was pressure from Darren and Jenny, the Green members of the London Assembly, who first got the GLA Living Wage Unit set-up, and whose local parties pushed for the first two London boroughs (Southwark and Lewisham) to commit to the policy.
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Joseph and I went along to the South London Citizens assembly on Thursday, where the recent Green successes in Lewisham and Southwark got a big cheer. It’s great that Jenny got the motion through council, but now we need to make sure the council follows through on its commitment!
So Southwark Greens hit the streets yesterday to start gathering public support. We’ve launched a photo petition and have some exhibition plans afoot in the near future. Now on to Southwark Trades Council to get more broad-based support, and to the London Federation of Green Parties again with a campaign pack so all local parties in the city can ratchet up the pressure!
No household with a parent at work should be living in poverty, but an IPPR study shows that six in ten households in the UK suffer that fate. As families struggle with high energy and food prices, and with a recession looming, the Southwark Green Party have launched a campaign to end working poverty in our Borough. We are calling on Southwark Council to pay all employees, direct and subcontracted, the London Living Wage, and to promote the Living Wage Employer’s Award throughout the Borough. Lewisham and Oxford Green Parties have pioneered this campaign, now we’re hoping to take it one step further in Southwark with a council commitment and Green campaigning in the private sector.
Tom Chance, Jenny Jones and Joseph O'Reilly launch the campaign