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January 10, 2014 / politicsbitesize

Is the minimum wage set to rise?

MinimumWageThe headlines on the front page of most of the Nation’s newspapers on Wednesday reported the news that the Chancellor has had a change of heart regarding a rise in the minimum wage. According to an article from the Independent,  George Osborne is considering approving an above-inflation rise to this cornerstone of fair working conditions.

The minimum wage is currently set at £6.31 for all workers over the age of 21, which is only £1.26 more per hour than the 2005 amount.  If it had been linked to inflation over the last eight years the current figure would be more like £6.68 per hour.  In order to try to bring the minimum wage up this expected level, the Chancellor has suggested that he will increase it to £6.62 from this October.  But his ‘generous’ 5% increase hasn’t always been on the agenda.

At the Conservative Party Conference at the end of September 2013, the Chancellor was poised to make an announcement about the minimum wage but, according to Whitehall sources, he changed his mind at the last minute.   A number of commentators believed that this was because the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, had revealed two weeks earlier at the Liberal Democrat conference that he had already asked the Low Pay Commission to consider increasing the minimum wage.

Mr Cable told delegates at his party conference in Glasgow last year that he had asked the commission to explore bringing the minimum wage back in line with inflation because, he said, it had fallen by around 10% per cent since the 2008 crash. He said that, ‘We cannot go on forever in a low pay and low productivity world in which all we can say to workers is, ‘You have got to take a wage cut to keep your job’’.’

So, although the Conservatives have announced this initiative, it seems that they have, once again, taken the popular policies right out from under the Liberal Democrats and ran with them as their own.  And by ‘stealing’ from their coalition partners, the Conservative’s desire to discard their ‘nasty party’ image has not been helped.  In the run up to the 2015 general election, the Conservative party’s spin doctors will need to work very hard to try and convince the public that they are a party worth voting for.

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