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Brent Council: Leading the way out of in-work poverty

Brent Council is championing the Living Wage in one of the most diverse boroughs in London. London is the most expensive place to live in the UK. The report of Brent’s Poverty Commission highlighted that, with the combined impact of housing costs and precarious employment, work can only help to provide a route out of poverty if wages reflect the cost of living. In short: Londoners need a real Living Wage.

Brent Council is leading that path to change. At the time of their accreditation as a Living Wage Employer in 2013, 29.5% of jobs in the borough were low paid. By April 2020, that figure had fallen to just over 20%.[1] We spoke to Brent’s Councillor Thomas Stephens, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, about in-work poverty in the borough and how the council are championing the real Living Wage to address it.

What does the landscape of poverty look like in Brent?

33% of Brent residents are living in poverty, while for London as a whole the rate is 28%. In-work poverty with low-paid work – too often in sectors with poor job prospects – is one reason why so many Brent residents struggle to make ends meet. So in order to address poverty in the borough, we have to be talking about the labour market.

Why did Brent Council decide to accredit as a Living Wage Employer?

The London Living Wage is vital for workers in our borough and in the city more broadly. We’re a big employer of local people; accrediting means we're leading by example and we’re committed to this in the years ahead. Taking action to tackle in-work poverty and secure good work for our residents is central to addressing poverty in Brent.

As the local authority, we continue to work with employers in our local area to promote paying the London Living Wage. We can’t do that if we’re not accredited as a Living Wage Employer: we have to lead by example.

The kinds of jobs that some people in Brent are employed in are too often insecure, low wage jobs. The London Living Wage is therefore central to our aim to address poverty in the borough. Any challenge to poverty must include the London Living Wage.

What is the Council doing to champion the Living Wage?

We’re putting the London Living Wage at the heart of our work. Continuing to promote the Living Wage was a key recommendation of Brent Poverty Commission’s independent report – which has been given full backing by our Cabinet – on the causes and consequences of poverty in Brent.

The borough has therefore put in place a range of incentives to encourage business to become accredited, including the first formal business rates discount in the UK for accredited employers. The council also has its own jobs brokerage service, Brent Works, that has been working to place residents into good-quality jobs.

We are focused on placing people into employment that pays at least the London Living Wage or above. We’re also working to place many 16-24 year-olds into good-quality job placements under the Kickstart scheme, and challenging employers to top-up their wages to London Living Wage or above.

 

[1] Living Wage Foundation analysis of Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Office for National Statistics, 2013-2020.

30th July 2021
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