It’s getting colder for all of us. It’s getting even colder for people struggling who are homeless in Cambridge or unable to afford fuel bills, despite working long hours on inadequate pay, or forced to survive on Food Bank donations because Government Universal Credit rules deny new applicants support until after Christmas, a horrible Scrooge delay of six weeks.
Cambridge is a tale of two cities and, as with our Rally last weekend, Labour Councillors, local trade unionists and our MP Daniel Zeichner are campaigning on three issues and eleven simple words – everyone in Cambridge is entitled to “Real Jobs, Fair Pay and Income, and Affordable Homes for All.” Why should people in one north ward live on average nine years less compared to people living in west Cambridge, which is largely down to inadequate incomes.
The Conservative and Lib Dem austerity programme since 2010 targeted less strong groups to pay an excessive price for the mess created by the banking crisis. Were were never all in this together.
On real jobs, workers need a fair deal from all Cambridge employers, particularly younger staff, minimum conditions, job security and minimum hours. And why should 18 year olds get less pay for doing as well the same job as 22 or 27 years olds, or be denied basic benefits and housing?
On fair pay, high Cambridge costs of living particularly housing mean everyone needs at least the “Real Living Wage” or £8.75 an hour to survive here. We want all Cambridge employers to follow the example of 100+ local firms and 55 accredited employers and pay it. And, as the City Council is considering, employers could pay a higher minimum, in our case planning at least £10 an hour from April 2018.
You can be the difference. Everyone reading this can ask your employer and shops or restaurant you use to pay at least £8.75. Ask what is their minimum wage and, if you don’t get the right answer, ask why not? The City Council and our MP want all local employers, including the University of Cambridge and all colleges and schools, to pay at least the “Real Living Wage” from 2018.
In addition, thousands of Cambridge NHS staff, education and public sector workers have suffered a 5% real income cut since 2010 austerity. We will see if the Chancellor adds funding to match his fine words, because claims of ending that damaging Pay Cap will otherwise be meaningless.
Finally, better pay will never be enough without far more affordable homes for rents, as buying is out of range for too many. The planned 500 extra new Cambridge City Council homes will help, as will council targets of 40% affordable homes in all medium and large new developments. But we also need national protection for private sector tenants from unfair hikes, and benefit rules that truly take account of Cambridge costs rather than Cambridgeshire averages or worse.
That is why “Real Jobs, Fair Pay and Income, and Affordable Homes for All” is essential for all and the future of our wonderful city. Everyone deserves the basics and a city fair for all.
Councillor Lewis Herbert, is Leader of the Labour-led Cambridge City Council and city councillor for Coleridge Ward.