Living Wage plan ‘a step too far’ says Chamber of Commerce boss

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PLANS to tackle child poverty include a recommendation to introduce a ‘living wage’ across Milton Keynes.

The proposal, which would allow businesses to adopt a new minimum wage above and beyond the Government’s national minimum wage, is part of a report published by the Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission.

But is has been criticised by Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce as ‘a step too far’.

The commission was formed last year by Milton Keynes Council and the Children and Families Partnership to look at how support such as debt, benefits and careers advice can be best targeted to end child poverty.

It’s executive summary, published earlier this month, suggests a series of measures aimed at ‘reducing poverty now, with a strong focus on employment’ and making sure ‘today’s poor children do not become tomorrow’s poor parents’.

The living wage proposal is backed by MK Equality Group, which hosted a talk by child care expert Naomi Eisentadt, the commission’s chairman, last night.

Entitled ‘The Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission – The Key Messages,’ the talk took place at Brooklands Farm Primary School.

Among those present was Mark Wasserberg from the equality group.

He said: “We are joining the national campaign of The Equality Trust to ask councillors to publish information about wage ratios in the council and in firms with council contracts.

“We are asking councillors to consider the implementation of a living minimum wage.

“It is a relatively minor part of the commission’s recommendations, but in terms of what the equality group is doing we would encourage people to write to their local councillor asking for this information.

“It would give us an idea what minimum wage and living wage would work.

“We haven’t got an idea of what a living wage would be yet. It would clearly be lower than the London living wage, but higher than the minimum wage.”

But Milton Keynes and North Bucks Chamber of Commerce chief executive Colin Fox rejected the idea.

He said: “The Child Poverty in Milton Keynes report is an excellent piece of work and we believe that Milton Keynes is already embracing many aspects of the report summary surrounding training, childcare and growth and development opportunities.

“However, a Milton Keynes ‘Living Wage,’ above the National minimum wage threshold, is a step too far in the current economic climate and may even prove a deterrent for inward investment from companies seeking to re-locate or start up and grow here.”

Ms Eisenstadt, a former director of the Government’s Sure Start Unit, said the commission’s recommendations were a platform for more discussion, adding that only two or three of them would need to be implemented to make a real difference.

> ‘We must all focus on child poverty’ – Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission publishes raft of recommendations

> Click here to see the Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission’s full executive summary.