In my last column I said that very reluctantly we were considering following the Government’s advice and increasing the level of Council Tax in Lewisham in order to take some of the pressure off the services we have been forced to cut back in recent years, particularly those that provide care for our older residents. We decided to raise the tax by 3.99% last Wednesday, which sounds like a large rise. In practice it means that we will be asking people whose properties are in Band D for Council Tax to pay 45p extra each week which is less than the cost of a single Cadbury’s Crème Egg if my calculations are correct!
It is not a decision any of us took lightly – we know that many of our fellow residents get by on fixed incomes and any increase in cost really does cause problems. But we also know that many of the essential services that the Council provides are under severe pressure.
For some residents it is possible to claim a reduction in the Council Tax depending on your particular circumstances and it is worth visiting the Council’s web site to see if you qualify.
Lewisham was the first council in the country to pay the Living Wage and we continue to do so. We will also be doing more to encourage other employers in Lewisham to pay the Living Wage, including through offering a Business Rate discount for those who follow our lead and get accredited.
The Government recently announced that employers with more than 250 staff will be required to publish the Gender Pay Gap in their organisation – that is the difference in the average pay of men and women. In the UK women earn 20% less than men on average. Lewisham Council already publishes information about gender pay difference and the most recent information showed that there is a significant gap but not in the way you might expect. The median earnings for female employees stands at £32,930 and male median earnings at £27,879. No you haven’t misread that – women working for Lewisham earn more than the men!
We also heard this week that there will be a referendum in June on whether or not Britain stays in Europe. I personally believe that the implications for us leaving the EU would be disastrous and have long lasting effects on our future prosperity, particularly here in London. I am therefore very pleased that Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will be campaigning for us to stay in Europe. We need a Mayor of our city who understands the importance of our place in Europe, and in Sadiq Khan we have that champion.