A senior Cardiff councillor who backed the introduction of the “Living Wage” for council workers has been branded a hypocrite after it emerged he was paying the lower National Minimum Wage to his own employees.
Grangetown’s Labour councillor Ashley Govier rejected the charge of hypocrisy, saying his cleaning company was a small firm and he couldn’t afford to pay the Living Wage.
In July last year the council announced its intention to introduce the Living Wage for all its staff. At that time, more than 2,000 low-paid employees were paid less than the Living Wage, which stood at £7.20 an hour for workers outside London. It has since risen to £7.45 an hour.
The £1m cost of introducing the Living Wage was met from the council’s reserves. The National Minimum Wage for workers aged over 21 is currently £6.19 an hour, and last year was £6.08 an hour.
This week a source provided the Echo with details of advertisements placed by Coun Govier’s cleaning company, IOS Support Services, on recruitment websites last year.
One advert, dated September 17, 2012, advertised a part-time cleaning job in Birmingham at £6.10 an hour for 7.5 hours per week – 2p per hour above the minimum wage.
Similar advertisements were placed for jobs in Llanelli and Cardiff in October and November.
Coun Govier has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Living Wage at Cardiff council, tweeting: “Even in this tough year we have managed to freeze council tax keep living wage.”
Cardiff council Liberal Democrat opposition leader Judith Woodman said: “If he was genuine in his protestations about the living wage, he would ensure no double standards in his businesses.”
Kenny Daniels, secretary of the council’s branch of the GMB union, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that this cabinet member isn’t paying his own workers the Living Wage. He should resign or be sacked.”
Earlier this year Coun Govier admitted he came close to committing a criminal offence when he advertised debt management services without a licence. He said he had made an honest mistake – and that his intention had been to help vulnerable people. He also said the company he registered had never dealt with a single client.
Responding to the latest allegations, Coun Govier said: “My company is just a small one with a turnover of less than £200,000 a year. At one time we had eight employees and now it’s down to four. In fact we’re not renewing contracts when they come to an end – I’m going to come out of business and only go back to it when I’ve finished being a councillor.
“I can’t afford to pay the Living Wage. I don’t think it’s hypocritical of me not to pay it. You can’t compare a council with a £1bn budget like Cardiff with a small business like mine. The Living Wage isn’t a legal requirement and if I paid it the firm wouldn’t be competitive. If it was a legal requirement to pay the Living Wage there would be a level playing field, and I’d willingly pay it.”