The Chancellor’s announcement that he’s recommending an above average increase in the minimum wage is very welcome news. It’s something Renewal has been campaigning for since our launch in July.
Wages have fallen behind prices for almost a decade now. The prosperity of Blair’s boom didn’t reach the low paid and it was the working poor who were hardest hit by the recession, meaning that the minimum wage is worth £1,000 less now than it was in 2008. Now that the economy is firmly on the road to recovery it’s the right time to raise the minimum wage. We have to ensure that prosperity and the benefits of the free market reach everybody in society and this increase is an important step towards that goal.
A minimum wage increase will help to make work pay, helping to cut the benefit bill and reduce the amount that the state pays out in tax credits. It shows that our party understands the impact of low pay of individuals, their families and their communities. It will make life a little easier for some of the poorest in society, illustrate compassionate Conservatism at work and show that the Conservatives can be the real workers’ party.
This is a hugely welcome move and important to showing how the Conservative Party can be the party for all working people. It provides an important foundation to build on as the Party takes much needed steps to broaden its appeal. The party should also be seen as championing the consumer and championing housebuilding to show that its sharing the prosperity that will flow from the recovery.
The lowest paid spend between a third and a half of their income on rent and are the hardest hit by the ongoing housing shortage. We should commit to building at least a million new homes over five years, emphasising that age-old Conservative message of the importance of ‘ a home of your own’ and again extending the property owning democracy to the lowest paid.
Conservatives should also never be afraid to stand up for the consumer where they’re being ripped off. The party shouldn’t be afraid of following in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt and taking action against vested interests and monopolies who are abusing their market position to the detriment of the consumer, the worker and the free market.
George Osborne was right to take action against pay day loan companies that prey on the poorest and we should be equally unafraid to take action against rogue landlords, rip off utilities or other companies that overstep the line. That’s why we need a Secretary of State for Consumer Protection to be a powerful Cabinet level voice to stand up for the consumer.
The increase in the minimum wage is absolutely the right thing to do. The Party that, wrongly, opposed the introduction of the minimum wage is now leading the debate over low pay and taking a decisive step to help the working poor. This is a massive step forward to ensuring that the Conservatives are seen as the real workers’ party.
David Skelton is Director of Renewal.