MP Life Swap
Posted by Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, at 09:49, Fri 3 August 2012:
I’ve spent the past 3 days out of the constituency, in a “MP Life Swap” exchange with Chris White, who’s the Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington. Chris spent some time in Stretford and Urmston in February, and this was my return visit.
It’s very interesting to meet organisations working in a different area from home. Many of the issues they face are exactly the same as here in Trafford: funding cuts and new ways of services being commissioned, worries about long term youth unemployment, and concerns that changes to housing and other benefits will leave some very vulnerable people facing great hardship.
Many of the people we met this week have significant mental health problems, and need loads of support to hold down a job or a home. Others were working, but still struggling on low wages to pay the bills and make ends meet.
That happens here in Trafford too. So I was especially interested to be invited to speak this week at the launch of a New Economy Working Paper which proposes a living wage in Manchester of £7.20 an hour.
That’s obviously higher than the national minimum wage, but New Economy calculate it would be a fair wage here in order to make work pay. And while it might seem a tough time to ask business to pay higher wages, a speaker from consultancy firm KPMG, who’ve been a living wage employer since 2006, told us there were significant savings for businesses from much improved staff retention. That meant money saved on staff training and supervision.
We should be campaigning for those employers who can pay the living wage to do so immediately, and for others to do so as soon as they can. But if we’re asking employers to take on more responsibilities, I’d like to see more incentives for businesses too.
We know that disabled people for example are especially likely to be less well paid – even when their qualifications are equal to those of non disabled people. And they experience much higher levels of unemployment, though many would love to be working.
So should we look at giving a tax or national insurance break to employers who offer work to a disabled person?
Or for investing in training their staff?
Some employers offer extra benefits to employees – interest free season ticket loans or staff discounts for example.
Could we encourage them to do more of this – to help employees with the rising cost of living?
We hear a lot about the need for people on benefits to take “responsibility”, but everyone has a responsibility –local and national government, businesses, and individuals. If we’re to build a fair and sustainable recovery, we need to think much more holistically and involve everyone in finding the solutions.