Labour calls for Cardiff to take part in real living wage pilot for care workers
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Labour has called for Cardiff to take part in a pilot and introduce the real living wage for care workers.
The real living wage is currently £9.50 an hour, 59p more than the current minimum wage for over 23s.
Labour councillors passed a motion during a council meeting on Thursday, September 30, backing the pilot, which would likely need support and funding from the Welsh Government.
In June the Welsh Government announced plans to bring in a real living wage for staff in the social care sector. The real living wage is calculated according to the cost of living, based on a basket of household goods and services, on what people need to get by.
But the motion led to a row on how to support people on low incomes in Cardiff, with Tories calling for a council tax freeze and Liberal Democrats arguing for a universal basic income.
Labour Councillor Lee Bridgeman, who proposed the motion, said: “I’m sad and angry that we live in a society where inequality and lack of social justice is just the normality for many people across the UK. I would like to place on record my sincere thanks and gratitude to those people who work in the social care sector.
“Their hard work and dedication during this pandemic has truly been inspirational.
“But we must not forget that these people have had to contend with severe cuts to services over the years, in the form of real-term funding cuts, extremely low pay, zero hour contracts with no job security whatsoever, which has led to staff shortages right across the sector.
“In Wales I’m glad to see that we have a government that recognises these inequalities. The Welsh Government back in January launched its white paper on rebalancing care and support in Wales. The Welsh Government has also committed to an additional funding of £40 million to local authorities to aid the delivery of social care.
“The Welsh Government has also committed to paying the real living wage to all social care workers during this Senedd term. This motion commits our council and cabinet to work with the Welsh Government on becoming a pilot area for the real living wage in Cardiff.”
Labour councillors also criticised recent decisions by the Westminster government to raise National Insurance and end the temporary uplift of £20 a week to Universal Credit. They said the cut to Universal Credit would affect 31,000 households in Cardiff. The motion also included asking council leader Huw Thomas to write to the prime minister urging a rethink.
Conservatives called instead for a freeze on council tax, rather than “writing stroppy letters”, and called on Labour to “take ownership” of continued poverty in the south of Cardiff.
Cllr Adrian Robson, Tory group leader said: “When the Labour group puts forward motions such as these, you have to wonder what the reasons are behind them. Perhaps it’s to coincide with the Labour conference, perhaps it’s because local elections are fast approaching.
“The motion talks about 31,000 households that are apparently affected in Cardiff. Most of these are in the southern arc. The southern arc is a construct of 60,000 Cardiffians stretching from Ely to Trowbridge, and we’re constantly reminded that it would be the poorest council in Wales.
“What a legacy Labour has left the south of this city. Since the beginning of devolution, this arc has been overwhelmingly represented by Labour MPs, MSs and councillors. Whatever you’re doing, Labour isn’t working.
“Rather than writing stroppy letters to Westminster, perhaps it’s time to take ownership. If you’re so concerned about the ending of temporary universal credit uplift, why not take an action within your control and perhaps pledge to freeze council tax.”
Council tax in Cardiff is expected to rise by four per cent next year, after having risen by 3.5 per cent this year. Thousands of people in Cardiff are currently missing payments on council tax, and since April this year the council has issued 2,720 court summonses for non-payment of council tax, according to a written question to the full council.
Liberal Democrat councillors said everyone should receive a universal basic income (UBI) to alleviate poverty. UBI would see everybody paid an unconditional amount of money every month, and the idea is gaining traction worldwide. In May the Welsh Government announced plans for a small UBI pilot, but restricted to people leaving the care system.
Cllr Emma Sandrey, Liberal Democrat group deputy leader, said: “I was delighted when the Welsh Government seemed open to the concept, but this was swiftly followed by disappointment when it transpired that they don’t seem to understand that one of the basic tenets of UBI is the principle that it has to be universal. It’s a watered down version that won’t satisfy anybody.
“The pilot inherently feeds into the argument that people on low incomes fit neatly into the categories of deserving and undeserving, when actually we all deserve a basic standard of living, especially those who have worked so hard during these times to care for people.
“We should all have the right to a roof over our heads, food on the table, access to basic utilities and the ability to make genuine choices about what we do with our lives.
“A pilot focused on care leavers is a distortion of the principles behind UBI. Its universality isn’t something to be compromised away. To do so undermines the definition of the concept, misleading people about what it actually is. Muddying the waters is counterproductive.”
Several questions remain about how a real living wage pilot for care workers in Cardiff would actually work, how much it would cost and when it would begin.
More details should be revealed on the practical implications in a cabinet report in the next few months.