Monday, 18 June 2012

Cornish Lib Dems campaign for fair pay for Cornwall

Cornwall Liberal Democrats are seeking the backing of the council for the Fair Pay for Cornwall campaign in opposition to plans for regional or local pay agreements. The issue will be debated at the full council meeting at the beginning of next month.

The proposal for regional pay was first put forward by the last Labour government which introduced it for some civil servants. But Tory Chancellor George Osborne has followed this up by asking different pay review boards to consider it for their areas.

Regional (or local) pay schemes would be bad for Cornwall in many ways. It would almost certainly mean lower pay deals for public sector workers despite living costs being as high as most of the South East. House prices are high and the lack of decent public transport makes owning a car almost essential in most parts of Cornwall. Water bills and the high cost of accessing entertainment and leisure also mean families would struggle if wages were cut.

And the slightly higher level of public sector pay also ensures that private sector wages cannot fall too far - preventing a race to the bottom. Cornwall is already the only part of the UK which is in receipt of EU structural funding because our income levels are so low. Cutting public sector pay would exacerbate the situation.

I very much hope that we will get the support of both Independent and MK groups when this matter is debated at full council. I hope too that there will be sensible Conservatives who will also back it. Unfortunately it seems the Council Leader is a lost cause on this. When asked at a public meeting in Launceston about the subject, his only answer was that he "tends to be in favour of anything with the word local in it..."

There is also national Liberal Democrat support for the campaign. During his visit to Cornwall last week, party president Tim Farron MP joined the campaign and, when I asked him about it at a conference on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also said that he would not be backing regional pay.

UPDATE (19/6) - Coverage of Nick Clegg's latest comments in the Mirror and the local angle in today's WMN.

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