Investor backs call for minimum wage hike

First published in Business News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

THE boss of a North-East investment firm has backed the Chancellor’s calls for a rise in the minimum wage to £7, arguing that working people, as well as business, should benefit from the recovery.

Jeremy Middleton, who runs Newcastle-based £50m fund Middleton Enterprises, has said the results of rising prices for household items, combined with the wage-freezing effect of the recession, has resulted in “a very real and very difficult squeeze on the household budgets of ordinary working people.”

Former Tory politician Mr Middleton said: “Prices have been outstripping wages since 2008, which has resulted in a very real and very difficult squeeze on household budgets for ordinary working people, with those on the minimum wage most severely affected.

“The Chancellor has said he’d like to see those earning the lowest wages have their incomes return to the same value as before the recession – and this is not only commendable, but fair. It’s socially conscious and by ensuring low wages rise at a higher rate than benefits, will reward and incentivise working families.

“While I understand concerns that higher wages are “risky” and could lead to job cuts, provided any rise will be carefully calibrated on the advice of independent body the Low Pay Commission, I believe that low-paid workers can also enjoy the fruits of economic recovery without employers being hindered or jobs being affected.

In fact, a rise in the minimum wage would go some way to addressing the rising cost of living for hard-working people, which has become out of kilter during the economic downturn, with household incomes being increasingly stretched in the face of rising fuel and food costs.

“While the minimum wage has risen just pennies since the crash, we have seen energy bills double since 2004, with prices continuing to rise in this sector, despite the recession. The Chancellor’s call for a significant 11 per cent rise from £6.31 to £7 an hour meaning millions of workers could gain up to an extra £1,225 in year in their pay packets. After all, everyone in the UK was affected by the slump, so why should the benefits of the recovery just be confined to upper echelons of society?

“I agree with the Chancellor when he says Britain can afford a higher minimum wage. Everyone in the country who gets up and goes out to work every morning has put in a lot of effort to get to this point and they should all be able to enjoy it. The recovery means employers can afford to take on new staff and pay higher wages – and if they want to keep and nurture the employees they value, they should perhaps consider sharing the wealth.”

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