County to fight regional wages scheme

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COUNCILLORS have put aside political differences to oppose Government plans to introduce regional wages for public sector workers.

Chancellor George Osborne is debating whether to bring in new pay rates for teachers, nurses and council workers based on where they live.

But in a motion to Northumberland County Council last week, Labour Group Leader Grant Davey urged the authority to fight the policy, saying it would harm the North East and make it difficult for the region’s schools and hospitals to recruit the best teachers and medics.

“Regional pay will not work,” he said. “The motions gives all parties a chance to send a strong message to the coalition Government.

“This is an issue that we need to take very seriously in Northumberland.

“We have a Government which wants to impose regionalised pay so we get much lower pay than people who live to the south and people who live to the north in Scotland — we will be economically squeezed from both sides.

“My concern is if they have said they are not going to do something that then they do it in another format, we don’t want them to do a figure of eight on their u-turn.

“Workers in Northumberland are paid £77 less per week than the British average.

“We do not want to be forever defined as a ‘low pay’ region.”

Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “It is a whole county issue. Regional pay is wrong — it is wrong to differentiate between one part of the country and another.”

And Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “We would never support the regionalisation of pay. We would never vote for it, it ain’t gonna happen.

“They are trying to drag down pay rates for hard working people in less fortunate regions. It it is a kite flying exercise.”

The council agreed to write to the Chancellor stating its opposition to the plans. It was also agreed that the council would sign up to the Pay Fair campaign.