North West council should be applauded for Business Rates/Living Wage initiative

Wirral Council could shortly become the first in the UK to offer companies a business rates discount if they pay staff the so-called Living Wage.

Larger firms in the borough could save up to £5,000, with varying discounts for smaller companies who pay adult employees £7.85 an hour.

I think this is really outside-the-box thinking from this local authority and I applaud their initiative. It’s a bold move and one which, if approved, could be seen as a possible pilot for others around the country to follow.

There are obvious benefits for the business as well as its employers but the Local Authority – whilst perhaps taking a hit on business rates revenue in the short term – could see long term gains in terms of increased local living standards, healthier businesses, more spend in the local economy and business loyalty to the borough.

Back in 2012 Wirral became one of the first councils in the country to guarantee all its staff a Living Wage and I don’t believe the sky fell in at that point either. Council leader Phil Davies says that everyone should have the opportunity to provide adequately for themselves and their families. A Living Wage can make a real difference to people’s lives. And he is right. I don’t believe anyone who reads this column will be currently existing on the living wage, let alone anything below it, and the more people that are lifted out of poverty the better for everyone.

An independent study for the Living Wage Foundation found more than 80% of employers believed implementing the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff while absenteeism fell by around 25%.

As Davies put it: “Paying the Living Wage is not only the decent thing to do, it has proven benefits for business.” I, for one, hope others will follow suit, if not to implement it immediately then to join the debate at the very least. I think it is fantastic that a North West authority is leading the way on this issue.

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