As part of Living Wage week last week, Jo joined Labour councillors, local carers and Living Wage campaigners on Kingswood High Street to show their support for the Living Wage. Here Jo explains why the ongoing campaign to tackle low pay in Kingswood is so important.
Jo McCarron writes:
If you get a job and work hard, you should at the very least earn enough to cover the basics like food, childcare, energy bills and the rent. But that is not the case for far too many people here in Kingswood. Nearly 50% of jobs across the Kingswood constituency pay less than £7.65 an hour. That’s the highest proportion in the country.
No-one living here wants this to be our claim to fame. So instead of making excuses for it, we must make sure it changes.
Part of the challenge is to get new, decently paid jobs into the constituency. There simply aren’t enough good jobs on decent pay close to home, which impacts not just on those earning £6.50 or £7 an hour. It puts pressure on people having to commute outside the constituency to find decent work. It means longer, more expensive commutes, and more congested roads.
There is exciting potential in Emersons Green, where the Bristol & Bath Science Park is based, opposite the National Composites Centre. The site is a growing hub for research, building on the great engineering tradition in the Bristol area. The NCC was kick-started by investment from the Labour Government; it has received support from this Government; and we need to ensure the Science Park and the Composites Centre continue to attract the biggest and best technology and engineering companies, which create high-skilled, well paid local jobs.
We also need to ensure the small and medium sized businesses we have in Kingswood can grow and flourish, to play their part in creating new jobs that pay a decent wage. A Labour Government will cut business rates and boost bank lending by creating a new Business Investment Bank.
But the challenge is not just to create new jobs in the constituency. We need more local employers to offer decent wages for the jobs that already exist.
A Labour Government will give a National Insurance tax break to employers who introduce the living wage to strengthen the incentive to pay decent wages – but already 80% of those paying the living wage believe it has enhanced the quality of work of their staff. I’m proud that South Gloucestershire Council is one such employer. It was the Labour Group of councillors who secured the living wage for Council workers, and they are now working to extend the living wage to Council contractors as well.
Living Wage Week and the Living Wage Foundation have played a hugely important role in promoting the Living Wage, but we need to see faster progress, and Kingswood – spurred on by our current standing as the UK’s “low pay blackspot” – must lead from the front.
Please get in touch to show your support and find out how you can help by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org