FEW would argue against a move to increase the salaries of the lowest paid public sector workers. The announcement that city council workers like cooks, cleaners and carers are to receive a “Living Wage” of at least £7.50 an hour has been roundly welcomed by unions and politicians.
It is a fantastic early Christmas present for 2000 hard-working families in the city, and rises of around £1300 a year will undoubtedly make a real difference.
But is this actually the best solution?
The Evening News has previously advocated removing the lowest paid from the tax bracket altogether – a move which would mean someone on the minimum wage would effectively be taking home the Living Wage now.
It solves many of the problems the Living Wage presents – the apprehension of the private sector to follow suit and sign up being chief among them.
The city council says the £1.4 million cost of today’s move will be met from existing funds. That is fine – and it is a drop in the ocean of the council’s overall budget – but it is still money which could be diverted elsewhere.
And then there is the concern that this is only the start of the costs involved – staff who have taken the first step up the pay ladder may well now demand a corresponding increase.
It is right to welcome the increases announced today and recognise that some of the hardest working members of the community are the lowest paid. But we also have to realise that the real answer lies in Westminster rather than the City Chambers.
Game of their lives
The passionate response of Hearts fans over the last 48 hours shows once again just how important this great football club is to the city.
Those who do not support a football team might struggle to understand why cash-strapped fans want to hand over money they can ill afford to do without to try to save the club.
But the attachment which fans form with their team can often run really deep. It often has as much to do with memories of bonding between fathers and sons and pride in your local identity as it does with the love of sport. Many supporters will be spurred on today by thoughts of what loved ones who are no longer with us would have made of the club’s plight.
To all those doing their utmost to help keep Hearts afloat, we say good luck lads and lasses. In this contest at least, everyone is on your side.