By Ian Dipple Wednesday 16 January 2013 Updated: 16/01 16:41
LABOUR and the Conservatives have accused each other of trying to politicise attempts to introduce a living wage for borough council staff.
The war of words broke out after the Tory group tabled a motion calling for an investigation into the implications of paying all workers at least £7.45 an hour, at a full council meeting on Tuesday (January 15).
About 59 permanent and temporary council workers are currently paid below the living wage but the number could fall once an ongoing job evaluation process, which will include new pay rates for all posts, is completed.
Numerous councils across the country have debated the motion devised by the Living Wage Foundation. But Labour councillors branded the move as a cynical ploy to grab votes ahead of the county council elections in May, as the wording had been changed to include reference to the Coalition Government's removal of two million people from paying tax.
Coun Greg Chance said it was a desperate attempt by the Tories to ditch their 'nasty party' image.
"The Tories voting to support the low paid is like the late Bernard Matthews campaigning for veganism," he said.
Coun Mark Shurmer added: " A lot of this is to do with distancing yourselves from those idiots in Westminster 'vote for me because I'm not like them'."
Labour introduced their own motion which also called for all employers across Redditch to introduce the living wage and recognise the fact council leader Bill Hartnett had already committed the council in the press to working towards it.
But they were attacked by the Conservatives for also playing politics by referring in the motion to the fact West Oxfordshire Council, in the Prime Minister's constituency, has seen its funding increase while the borough council's fell by 2.7 per cent.
Coun Mike Chalk said: "All this motion does is point out to the press and public the controlling group are unhappy with the government grant for this year and it's their fault we can't pay £7.45 an hour."
Conservative group leader Carole Gandy added they had tabled the original motion because the Labour group had failed to do so.
"Obviously it is not a political priority for you," she said.
"There's been a lot of talk about the minimum wage and as a party we did not support the minimum wage and we were wrong to do so, it was a mistake. That's why we feel strongly this is something we need to look at seriously."
Eventually a simpler version of the motion suggested by Coun Gandy, based solely on the principle of investigating the introduction of the living wage for council staff, was moved by Coun Hartnett and backed by both parties.
The council's overview and scrutiny committee will now assess the full costs and implications.
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