THE Bishop of Croydon has accused the council of "saving money at the expense of the poor" after it refused to sign up to the London Living Wage scheme. Right Reverend Jonathan Clark said he was "disappointed" Croydon Council would not commit to providing its poorest workers with "dignity and self-sufficiency" and called for a rethink. His remarks were made in response to an Advertiser article in which a leading councillor explained the decision not to sign up to the wage, which is calculated on the cost of living. Sara Bashford, cabinet member for corporate services, said the council could not support "increases it cannot afford". The Bishop posted a link to the article on Twitter this morning (Tuesday) alongside: "The wrong way to save money - at the expense of the poor." Speaking to the Advertiser he added: "What the church needs to be doing is speaking out for the people who don't have a voice. "What I want to say is on behalf of the people who are at the bottom of the pile. The 'living wage' is a way of giving people a basic subsistence in a way that the minimum wage doesn't in London. "It's something we should be adopting widely. The minimum wage is a good thing in itself, otherwise wages would be even lower, but actually it's not enough to live on with any sense of dignity and self-sufficiency. "That's why I am a supporter of the living wage and I'm disappointed that the council hasn't felt able to adopt it." Earlier this month Mayor Boris Johnson said the London Living Wage would increase by 25p to £8.55 per hour. Some 200 employers, and six local authorities, have backed the non-binding scheme since it was launched in 2005. Seven council employees are paid less than the recent increase and while they will receive pay rises, Cllr Bashford added: "I wouldn't want to guarantee that every time the Mayor increases the living wage that we have to as well, because we don't know what our budgets will be." Bishop Clark said: "That's not a very powerful argument. "There's a process by which the living wage is uprated and it's in related to maintaining the same buying power. "It's not as if it's going to suddenly be accelerated to some extraordinary rate. The whole point of increasing it is to keep people at the same point in terms of their own ability to live." He added: "Saying you can't afford to pay the living wage is making cuts at the expense of the people who are the very poorest employees of the council. "I don't think they are the ones who should bear the brunt. Any institution should be looking after its poorest first. It's a bad argument." Hounslow, Lambeth, Camden, Islington, Lewisham and Merton are part of the scheme while Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Southwark and Tower Hamlets are in the process of signing up. Bishop Clark said: "We all know that London is an increasingly expensive place to live. It's difficult for people to afford the basic necessities. Lots of people are in that situation. It's a big issue. "I would hope the council, being one of the borough's biggest employers, would lead the way in dealing with those issues. I would be very happy if they reconsidered."
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