Posted: Thu 29th Feb 2024

Gwent Council Lowers Pay Gap With Living Wage Rise /

THE 300 lowest paid staff in a Gwent council are to earn £12 an hour from April this year. 
The rate is in line with that set by the independent Living Wage Foundation, and is 56 pence more an hour than what the legal minimum National Living Wage, set by the UK Government, will be from April 1. That will rise to £11.44 per hour, and will now apply to all workers aged 21 and over. 
Torfaen Borough Council approved its pay statement for the forthcoming financial year at its February meeting, which includes the pay rise for the lowest paid staff. It also sets out the differences in pay between the authority’s biggest earners and the lowest paid. 
Jason Lewis, the council’s director of corporate services, said it has an “ongoing commitment” to pay the rate set by Living Wage Foundation. The current rate set, in 2022/23, is £10.90 an hour and the foundation announced the increase in October with the government’s legal minimum currently £10.42 an hour for workers aged 23 and over. 
The Living Wage Foundation says its rate is independently calculated to cover the real cost of living and that workers earning the legal minimum will, over a year, be £1,092 short of what those on its rate earn. 
Torfaen’s top earner is chief executive Stephen Vickers, who is paid £132,023 a year. His deputy, Nigel Aurelius, who is set to retire this year, has a salary range between £101,852 to a maximum of £111,405 a year. 
Directors earn from £83,677 to a maximum of £99,516 a year, with deputy directors and heads of service collecting between £63,282 and a maximum of £81,869 annually. 
The statement says the median employee wage in Torfaen is a “modest” £28,770. 
Councillor Sue Morgan, the Labour cabinet member for finance, said the amounts paid by the council are “well within the recommended ranges”. 
She said: “Our focus is on ensuring lower paid staff are protected in difficult times while proscribing appropriate grade distinctions. I’m pleased to note the relation of senior to average pay stands at 4.59 to one for our chief executive and 2.86 to one for senior officers.” 
Mr Vickers and all senior officers left the chamber during the discussion, except for Mr Lewis, who was given special permission to remain so he could present the report. 
He said the Hutton report on public sector pay recommended top rates should be no more than 20 times that of the lowest paid. 
“I’m pleased to say Torfaen recommended range is among the lowest in Wales and the figures represent the pay restraint adopted by the council,” said Mr Lewis.
“The rate of pay of our chief executive is among the lowest in Wales, if not the lowest in Wales, and equal to that of chief officer pay in some larger authorities.” 
Council leader, Panteg member Anthony Hunt, said the council had also reduced its number of chief officers. 
Councils have to consider the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales when setting, or making changes, to their chief executive’s pay. Torfaen has no plans to make any changes. 
Its senior officers are paid in line with nationally negotiated rates and the policy commits the council to honouring any nationally negotiated pay rises. 
The pay statement doesn’t cover the allowances paid to elected councillors. All 40 councillors in Torfaen are entitled to a £18,666 basic allowance with Cllr Hunt paid an additional £40,832 as leader and his cabinet members receive an extra £17,033 a year on top of the basic allowance. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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