The District Council is to introduce the Living Wage for all our employees from 1 April.
The decision was taken at the authority's annual budget meeting last week at which councillors also agreed to freeze the District Council's share of Council Tax at around 50p a day per household for a fifth consecutive year in 2015/16.
Proposing the move, Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said:
"It is a sobering thought that four years ago we employed 330 full time equivalent staff and now we are down to just 227. That is why we must thank our workforce for doing what they do to meet the expectations of local people who continue to get a first class service in the Derbyshire Dales.
"We appreciate that our workforce is having to do more for less and do things differently - without this we would not be in a position to accept the Council Tax freeze grant that enables us for a fifth year running to freeze our share of the Council Tax."
The introduction of a Living Wage will benefit 51 council employees - 37 are casuals in the leisure department, seven are working in leisure centres in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth, and six are part of the cleaning staff at Matlock Town Hall.
The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually, calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK and currently set at £7.85 an hour outside London.
Said Councillor Rose: "It will cost an additional £35,000 a year, but I believe it is something we need to do now."
Thanking fellow members and officers for their hard work in making Derbyshire Dales one of the top performing district councils in England, Councillor Rose said he regretted that Council Tax increases of nearly 2% announced by Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire Police would mean local people faced a hike in their bills in the coming year, despite the District Council's tax freeze.
"It is not my style to comment on what others are required to do, but to be truthful the preference would be for there to have been no increase in the Council Tax bills we have to send out later this month," he said. "Sadly the recipients of the bills sent out in our name see only the bottom line.
"We have been facing up to the challenges of making savings for many years and by the end of the next financial year in 2016 we will have saved over £5-million over the 12 years that successive Governments have cut our grant aid.
"The outturn this year demonstrates that we are making good progress to reducing the deficit we face from 2017 onwards. We need to be ahead of the game if we are to address the shortfall of £1.2 million we face in 2019 onwards - added to this we can expect more reductions in Government grant whoever forms the next Government as Local Government has had to bear and will continue to bear the brunt of balancing the nation's books.
"We can anticipate losing all of our Government grant apart from business rates in the not too distant future so we have to continue to review our services and look to raising more income without detriment to our services."
Councillor Rose said a comprehensive review of all the District Council's services would continue - the latest targeting leisure and planning areas.
Increased space created at Matlock Town Hall by a reduction in staff and an outsourcing of the District Council's Council Tax and benefits service had been used to let out offices to Rural Action Derbyshire.
Councillor Rose mentioned too external cash used to massively improve the District Council's Ashbourne Leisure Centre, which had bounced back from a potentially disastrous arson attack last year.
Matlock Bath illuminations, organised by the District Council, had enjoyed a record year with over 45,000 paying visitors, Matlock Bath's Jubilee Bridge had been restored and, despite bad winter weather, household waste collections were now recording a 57% recycling rate - the 37th best in the country.
Councillor Rose went on:
"In housing we are on course to deliver 70 new affordable homes this financial year. We hope the Government will reverse it perverse decision not to allow Section 106 contributions for developments of 10 or less and we continue to lobby hard for a rethink on this.
"Our debt services supported over 114 people in 2014/15 and our apprentice scheme has worked well and given opportunities to 13 young people covering accountancy, audit, licensing, clean and green vehicle maintenance, building control and property services, housing, leisure and business support."
He said many other improvements had been made, particularly in the use of technology, and, on economic development, Councillor Rose praised the work of the District Council's free business advice service which, in addition to helping 450 local firms create 275 new jobs, had also helped the majority of 28 Dales businesses that had received almost £572,000 Global Derbyshire cash.
"It was good to learn than the Ashbourne Airfield project is on course to receive funding of £1-million and we welcome the Growth Hub offer from Sheffield City Region and D2N2 which should increase this important service to business," said Councillor Rose.
"We have agreed to join the D2 Combined Authority and look forward to working with all the councils in Derbyshire as well as Sheffield City Region to maximise the advantages this will give us in the years ahead."
Councillor Rose added:
"My message is to be positive despite the challenges we face and the savings we have to make. There are things we can do better, share with others and get done by others and we will continue to progress those opportunities.
"Above all, our aim is to keep the Dales one of the best performing small authorities in England, to continue to punch above our weight, give value for money, help those who need help and to maintain our front line services. Let us work together to achieve these important aims."
- The District Council collects Council Tax on behalf of all local authorities but only spends 12% of the total, providing services to local people at an average cost of just 50p a day – despite the continuing squeeze on its finances.
- Services provided by the District Council include affordable housing, business support, leisure centres and health initiatives, waste and recycling collections, parks maintenance, street cleaning and leading on crime prevention initiatives.
- A near £0.5m (13.8%) central government grant cut in 2015/16 comes on top of grant reductions of a 10.8% last year and 15.6% in 2013/14 – but the District Council is pledging there will be no significant service reductions in the coming year.
- Local Council Tax payers will not be asked to fund grant cuts. Instead the District Council will claim the 1% equivalent Council Tax increase incentive offered by central Government to local councils that freeze charges - and continue to identify savings through a comprehensive review of all its services.
- Successive government grant cutbacks mean the District Council needs to make additional ongoing savings of £1.2 million over the next five years.
- Savings of £475,000 a year have already been identified following completed reviews of its administration service, leisure service, tourism service and discretionary grants, and from a merger of its grounds maintenance and street cleansing functions. These ongoing service reviews and other measures are helping the District Council to keep Council Tax increases to a minimum.
- The Living Wage enjoys cross party support, with public backing from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Paying the Living Wage is good for business, good for the individual and good for society. The Living Wage Employer Mark and Service Provider Recognition Scheme provide an ethical badge for responsible pay.