Councillor Frank Ross: Capital must get behind concept of Living Wage

Calls for the living wage have been made by numerous politicians. Picture; Nick Ansell
Calls for the living wage have been made by numerous politicians. Picture; Nick Ansell
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As we approach the end of summer, we can look back on yet another successful year for the city of Edinburgh.

Our world-acclaimed festivals have attracted more than 4.5 million people, generating an economic impact of £280 million.

Additionally, employment and average earnings continue to grow, and Edinburgh is now the second most successful city in the UK. Our schools have again exceeded expectations and presented results that our Capital, and parents, should be very proud of.

And to top it all off, there was the news that the Capital is the only UK city to be on the shortlist of the world’s friendliest cities.

However, behind this success, we have to address the fact that despite the wealth in the city, 20 per cent of our population still live in poverty – and half of these are in work.

The impact this has on families – and children specifically – is dramatic and the effects last well into adulthood, continuing the cycle.

Child poverty in Scotland is below the UK average, and Edinburgh below that of Scotland, but the fact that we still have children living in poverty in a first world country should concern us.

A key to improving this is to increase levels of income. Whilst the City of Edinburgh Council already pays the Living Wage, it is also promoting the Living Wage to suppliers and partners through our procurement process.

We also target support for those furthest from the jobs market through the Growth Accelerator model in the new Edinburgh St James development, which will provide employment for the low-waged or unemployed.

Another major factor is housing, and in Edinburgh we are leading the field in both actual and planned delivery over the next five years.

We have ambitious plans to expand the council-led housebuilding programme to 8000 new homes and will invest in improvements that reduce the cost of living for tenants.

Also, the city’s housing associations have agreed to match the council’s output with a further 8000 new homes – that’s 16,000 new homes in Edinburgh by 2022.

This affordable, well-designed, sustainable housing is essential to help eradicate poverty and this is our priority.

Additionally, improvements have resulted from the Scottish Government’s introduction of increased early years provision and the focus on closing the attainment gap. The Government’s funding of social housing and investment in education complement the actions we are taking in Edinburgh and we will continue to work in partnership to reduce poverty.

We, as a successful and wealthy capital city, have a duty to ensure that all our citizens benefit as the city grows and that none are left behind. Research shows that those at the lower end of the pay scale will, when given a real increase, spend that money and spend it locally. I would therefore urge all employers to invest in our city and underpin our economy by eliminating zero hours contracts and paying the Living Wage.

Frank Ross is the leader of the SNP group at Edinburgh City Council