Conservative London borough council with one of lowest tax rates in country ‘exploiting’ low-paid workers, union claims

Wandsworth accused of using outsourced staff from private firms to avoid paying London Living Wage

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 19 February 2019 11:41
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Wandsworth residents pay around half as much council tax on average than people living in the rest of London
Wandsworth residents pay around half as much council tax on average than people living in the rest of London

A flagship Consevative council has been accused of “exploiting” low-paid workers while boasting it offers its taxpayers some of the cheapest council tax rates in the country.

The GMB union has claimed Wandsworth Council in southwest London is not paying the capital’s living wage of £10.55 an hour for some roles by outsourcing the work to private firms.

Less than a week ago, the local authority announced it was set to approve a budget, which would keep its council tax among the lowest in England.

Under the spending plan, a Band D home in the borough would pay just £770.31 in council tax each year, around half the average for a similar home elsewhere in London.

The council told residents they would still be: “continuing to benefit from one of the lowest council tax bills in the country”.

However, GMB, which represents staff employed by outsourcing contractors, accused the council of making savings by using workers from private companies to carry out tasks such as street cleaning, park maintenance and parking enforcement.

Staff providing council services from outside firms Quadron and ISS were being paid the national minimum of £7.83 an hour, while street cleaners employed by Continental Landscapes received £8.50 an hour, it claimed.

“Sadly, many seem oblivious at this exploitation of the lower paid workers many of whom are migrant workers working directly for them to keep the streets clean,” Paul Maloney, GMB Southern Regional Secretary said.

He added that the "exploitation" of the staff "working directly for the public in a borough with average earnings for residents working full time of £64,761 has to stop."

He said: "These lower paid workers deserve the support of the all fair minded people.”

The only Conservative council in inner London, Wandsworth is has been Tory-controlled since 1978.

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It is often held up by the party as a model of good governance for its other local authorities across the country.

A council spokesman said: “A December meeting of Wandsworth Council welcomed the fact that the council currently pays all its staff at least the London Living Wage.

“Councillors also debated and unanimously agreed to record its support for all businesses in the borough, including the council's own contracting partners, who are taking steps to pay their London-based employees a London Living Wage.”

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