Why the new national living wage will leave some workers worse off

A slightly higher minimum wage will not be enough to offset cuts to tax credits



Boris Johnson made a lot of noise about the living wage in the lead-up to the Budget. He has always resisted my calls for it to become compulsory, but was on London’s side when he warned last week that the new ‘national living wage’ is nothing of the sort.

With the chancellor trying to pull a fast one, I’m going to press the mayor on Wednesday with three reasons why he shouldn’t quieten down.

My first is simple – why is there still no higher minimum wage in London?

The government now accepts the need in the capital for a higher benefit cap (a shameful policy), and has set the staggeringly stupid ‘pay to stay’ income threshold for social housing tenants at a higher level for London.

It’s obviously more expensive to live here, so why not make employers pay people more? The mayor hinted at this on Friday – will he publicly call for it?

The new national minimum wage will leave the average UK worker £26 per week below a basic standard of living, but it leaves Londoners £78 a week behind.

I also want to know why City Hall apprentices are paid a full London Living Wage of £9.15 an hour, when the national rate for apprentices is a miserly £2.73.

Why does the mayor ensure an 18-year-old starting out at Transport for London earns at least £9.15 an hour, when the national minimum would be just £5.13? Why did he not criticise the decision to only pay the higher minimum wage to people over the age of 25?

I’m utterly fed up with the casual discrimination against young people. Why should an employer be able to pay a 24-year-old poverty wages? What happens when they turn 25?

My third question is, will the mayor stand up for all the existing London Living Wage workers?

The living wage campaign has brought 20,000+ Londoners above £9.15 an hour. They won’t benefit from the slightly higher national minimum wage, but many of them will lose out from the benefit and tax credit cuts.

Those who work part time will be hit by the cuts to working tax credits. Those renting privately are likely to claim housing benefit to help pay their rent, but this has been frozen for the next four years. Anyone who has a third child will have to find the extra costs from their shrinking income.

This so-called ‘living wage budget’ will be terrible for a large number of living wage workers.

This matters for the mayor of London.

Each year the City Hall calculates the new living wage level, taking into account changes to tax and social security. The living wage will rise faster to compensate for these cuts.

But the big brains in City Hall look at the current set-up, they don’t look ahead. These cuts don’t come in until April 2016, so the new level announced in November won’t account for them. Anyway, it usually takes employers at least a few months to uprate their pay based on the new figure from the GLA.

This means workers on the London Living Wage could actually be earning poverty wages for most of 2016.

So I’m going to ask the mayor to change the methodology, to compensate for these cuts this year instead of waiting for the next.

The moral purpose of the living wage is that everybody ought to be able to build a life on their wages. The emergency budget betrayed this simple promise. If the mayor really believes in it, he will join me this Wednesday in calling for a genuine living wage for all Londoners.

Jenny Jones is a member of the London Assembly for the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

15 Responses to “Why the new national living wage will leave some workers worse off”

  1. WilliamKGraham


  2. Torybushhug

    Why does the paternalistic lofty left wing inteleligencia assume people are not agents in thier own destiny? Why the assumption people will not take steps to make up the loss of benefits? Are you so pious that you consider working class people nothing more than jellyfish on a tide of indifference?
    You have a low opinion of working class people.

    Returning welfare to a 1960 s style safety net is our most urgent moral purpose., returning dignity to people as they rediscover their own autonomy.

  3. stevep

    The Tories want everyone except their lackeys and toady`s to be on poverty wages. Nothing less than a return to the days when a person had to beg for a job or starve and had to doff the cap at their “betters” for fear of losing it..
    People of Britain, wipe your eyes clear of 35 years of smog, throw off your shackles and democratically create a country fit for future generations to live in!
    Let`s campaign for fairness, decency, equality, an end to hunger and poverty and a political system that favours the many, not the few!

  4. Jacko

    I wonder where J K Rowling would be if she’d spent her time moaning about the system and welfare payments and the unfairness of it all. Or Alan Sugar. Or Gulam Noon.

    People who passively blame others for their situation and expect others to help them never amount to anything in life. You make your own luck in this world. Learn better skills, practice hard, plan your life. It always has been the way forward and it always will be.

    When I was a kid I went to one of those awful, left-wing infested comprehensive schools. The most despressing thing about it was the dismal level of aspiration and expectation they instilled in the kids. The heights of achievement was considered to be an apprenticeshiip at GEC. And i’ve noticed this about the Left ever since: aspire to something ordinary, blame the system if it doesn’t happen, think of the world in a mythologized rich vs poor struggle, hate anyone with money, watch your life tick away.

  5. PaternalisticInteleligencia

    Hmmm, nowhere does the author refer to the working class as jellyfish, in fact nowhere does the author talk about the working class. So, where are you getting your assumptions?

  6. Torybushhug

    We want a return to a 1960’s style welfare state, there for the dignified few that truly cannot work.
    Life was so awful back then was it?
    Trust you as an evidence denier to frame this as welfare vs zero welfare, yawn, Rick from the Youngones, get out of that 1989 6th form common room bubble.

  7. Torybushhug

    Read again, implicit in her narrative is this idea people having benefits cut will just sit there like jellyfish on a tide, unable to make changes in their lives without nanny state help.

  8. Janet T-Tremaine

    Steve – your comment is sooooo past it, outdated and out of touch. People need something to aspire to or they will drown in “mediocracy” – the way the left controls their minions.

  9. stevep

    It`s actually more relevant today that ever. That`s why I said it. We`re going backwards, not forwards. I aspire to a country where we all actually have a real choice, not just brown-nosing the wealthy elite.

  10. Viv Dawson

    I agree on one thing here that’s the rich versus poor as reflected in politics and the demanding attitude of both sides in the past is what has left us in this mess. We need people to work together for each other. We need to develop a fairer less greedy society and yes some people need to develop a sense of responsibility but lot’s need to develop a sense of worth. People need to learn to work together – communities need to pull together. If we had thriving public services jobs could be created in them and some people would be able to earn instead of receive benefits and the services would improve. The Government needs to think more creatively and be less punitive and stop trying to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. There are always people at the top and the bottom but the great divide is the problem and where the government chooses to spend it’s money is making it worse.

  11. stevep

    Yawn, more boring far-right nonsense.

  12. Tom

    JK Rowling is a pretty odd example given that she’s publicly declared that the benefits system is precisely what allowed her to get to where she is…

  13. Socialist Worker

    More redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, hiding behind promises of fairness. Well, it is a tory government!

  14. Patrick Nelson

    You mean Alan Labour long-supported the Labour Party Sugar?

  15. Alan H Stewart

    Most left wing people would like a fairer society and the policies they advocate are to that end. Excluding crime, (which I assume Torybushhug is advocating) education is the key route out of poverty but benefits are required until you are educated. The last government canceled the benefit that teenagers could claim in order to attend college.

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