Edinburgh pay rates should reflect higher cost of living, says MSP calling for London-style 'weighting' scheme
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Tory Miles Briggs is set to have talks with Deputy First Minister John Swinney on the issue after raising it in the Scottish Parliament shortly before Christmas. "It's something I have previously called on the Scottish Government to investigate," said Mr Briggs. "I think it's becoming an acute issue now around the cost of living. I've had conversations with people working in different public services who are reporting just how expensive Edinburgh now is to live in, so I think the time has now come for us seriously to look at how this can be taken forward."
He says Edinburgh now has some of the highest vacancy rates in public services and some of the highest housing and childcare costs and that should be recognised in people's pay in a similar way to London weighting, first introduced for civil servants in 1920.
During questions in the Holyood chamber on December 14, Mr Briggs asked if Mr Swinney, who is acting finance secretary, would meet him to discuss the potential development of an Edinburgh pay weighting and whether the government might commission university research into the need for such a measure. Mr Swinney acknowledged that Mr Briggs was raising "serious issues". And he added: "I will happily meet him to discuss that concept. On that occasion, perhaps we can think further about any particular research that will be necessary in that respect."
And Mr Swinney paid tribute to former independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald who "was never backward in coming forward to me in budget processes" to argue a similar case.
Mr Briggs said: “There have been various studies into how the weighting system has helped London. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need one here, but for those of us living in Edinburgh we are seeing shortages in the public sector workforce like no other part of the country and it is because of the cost of living in the Capital.”
He said low pay rates were a key factor in Edinburgh’s social care crisis, with providers finding it difficult to recruit carers when many could get better-paid, less demanding jobs elsewhere. And he said it was not just the public sector and care sector that struggled for staff. The traditionally low-paid hospitality industry was also affected. And now we're hearing starting salaries for police are meaning people cant live in Edinburgh they find it so expensive. I think everyone is realising we now need an Edinburgh weighting but it’s a question of how we deliver that and make it affordable.”
Mr Briggs said he hoped the NHS, the city council and other major public sector employers could be included in discussions about the way forward. He suggested there could be an Edinburgh weighting added to the Real Living Wage in the Capital, which private sector employers could then sign up to. “Some private employers have already moved to paying more because they can't get people in Edinburgh – supermarkets, for example. It's already happening anyway, but a more co-ordinated approach is probably what's needed to see if we can have a positive impact.”