Rachel Reeves's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2012

2 October 2012

Rachel Reeves

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:

When Ed Miliband calls for an economy that works for working people, some people ask what that means in practical terms.

Well now we're going to talk about a very concrete example: the campaign for a Living Wage – that's been built by trade unions, community groups, our own Labour Students who have been fighting for it alongside staff in universities in colleges, and increasingly taken up by far-sighted employers – gives us a great example of the kind of change we want to see and the kind of difference it can make to people's lives.

The argument for a living wage is moral and economic.

It's based on the belief that work should bring the dignity of a decent wage – enough to keep a family out of poverty and debt.

And as we'll hear this morning, it can mean stronger business models, based on better skilled, better motivated, more productive employees.

Those employers that have implemented the policy, including an increasing number in the private sector, report that the extra money put into the pockets of their employees is more than made up for by the savings they make as a result of improved recruitment and retention and the benefits to their business of the boost it gives to staff morale and engagement.

But if that's what we really believe, then we should be looking to put it into practice wherever we can.

That's why Ed Miliband and I wanted to do whatever we could to support those Labour councils who wanted to make this commitment to their employees and communities.

It's a bold ambition, and a very big ask for councils who have are bearing the brunt of budget cuts and unprecedented pressure on services, resulting from the recession, rising deprivation, and an ageing population.

You might be forgiven for thinking that a Living Wage was a nice idea for another day, but not a practical proposition at a time like this.

But you'd be wrong.

Earlier this year, Labour councils in Lewisham and Islington became the first accredited Living Wage authorities in the country.

And today, it gives me immense pride to announce that, thanks to the commitment and creativity of Labour councillors, as well as the work of trade unions like UNISON, the GMB and Unite, and community organisations like Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation, the following councils are now on their way to becoming accredited Living Wage Employers:

Camden;

Birmingham;

Preston;

Oxford;

Lambeth;

Southwark;

Hounslow;

And Cardiff.

In total, around the country, we can now point to over 12 Labour councils, from Glasgow to Hackney, showing that a fairer economy isn't just a noble idea, it's something we can start building right here, right now.

Even in opposition, even in times as tough as these.

And I know of many other councils up and down the country who are now looking at whether this is something they can deliver.

So to tell us a bit more about how it can be done, I'm delighted to be able to introduce:

Fran Massey, a UNISON member who works at Manchester College;

Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, the first council to become an accredited Living Wage employer;

And Alan Buckle, Deputy Chairman of KPMG International, one of the first private sector employers to take up the call for the Living Wage.