The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Stewart Fletcher asked the Leader what the Conservatives three priorities were for the Council in the coming term?
The Leader thanked Councillor Fletcher for his question and remarked that the priorities over the next civic year were;
· Sound Finance
· To keep the Ribble Valley independent
· To deliver significant investments in the Borough through the UK Shared Prosperity fund
In a supplementary question, Councillor Fletcher noted that although it was difficult to narrow down to three priorities, he was surprised that Climate Change was not addressed and that the Council had not declared a Climate emergency. He asked, if we were to achieve the objective to reach net zero by 2030 should we not declare this? The Leader responded noting that he thought it important that this be considered by the Climate Change Working Group and brought back to Economic Development Committee. The Leader noted that he felt it important as a Council to deliver what we say we can deliver, and that he was aware that the first Council to declare a Climate emergency was a long way off achieving their objectives by 2030.
Next, Councillor Fletcher stated that they welcomed the Council’s decision in extending the household support fund until March 2024, and asked, could the Leader update us on the progress of the dispersal of these funds?
The Leader reported that the Council went live with applications on Monday 3rd July and to date 33 applications had been received. The Council were to write directly to care leavers, unpaid carers and people who had received disability facilities grants to invite them to apply for a voucher. The Director of Economic Development and Planning had met with Childrens Social Care and had requested details of care leavers in the Borough to ensure they were all contacted. The Council were currently advertising for a Debt Advisor position to provide assistance to all applicants and residents within the Borough.
In a supplementary question, Councillor noted that the link to the Food Voucher Scheme form was difficult to find and asked how this could be streamlined and promoted. The Leader responded that he would pick this up with Officers.
Finally, Councillor Fletcher stated that colleagues in the Labour Party had highlighted the work of The Living Wage Foundation who encouraged employers to play their part in tackling in-work poverty and provided a decent standard of living by paying the real Living Wage, which was currently set at £10.90. He asked, could the leader confirm that all council employees were earning this figure or above?
The Leader replied that the lowest paid Council employees in substantive posts were paid £10.60 per hour. The current years pay offer to the Unions if accepted would increase this by 9.4% to £11.60 per hour backdated to 1st April 2023. The Council also had 2 modern apprentices on temporary training contracts who were paid the National Living Wage for their age. The Living Wage Foundation recognised that apprentices were not required to be paid the Real Living Wage as much of their wage was often training.
In a supplementary question, Councillor Fletcher asked if the Leader was able to confirm if the same applied to Contractors that conducted work for the Council and those in the supply chain. The Leader responded that he would need to refer to the Council’s procurement policy in order to confirm.