Local government workers can’t afford to live in the towns they serve

Housing is out of reach for public service workers, declares local government conference

Mike Daniel. Photo: Marcus Rose


Housing is out of reach for public service workers, UNISON’s local government conference declared today.

The conference vowed to “continue to make the case for decent, secure, safe and affordable housing” especially for workers on modest incomes.

“It’s almost impossible now for many of our members to live in many of our towns and cities, with homes out of reach,” Mark Chiverton said on behalf of UNISON’s South Eastern region.

He pointed out that rents have risen by 6% more than wages.

National young members’ forum delegate Mike Daniel illustrated the scale of the problem from his own life.

“In my day job, I work for Devon County Council,” he told conference. “I recently got promoted, but because of stagnant local government wages, I still get less than median wage for Exeter.”

He earns just over £10 an hour – the Living Wage Foundation says workers outside London need to earn £9 an hour to make ends meet – but can’t afford to live in the city he works in.

It would cost more than £500 a month for a flat share in the city, or £700 a month for a studio flat in a shared building with no privacy, he reported.

Conference called on the government to fund social housing, set up a new definition of affordable housing that is “linked to people’s incomes, not market prices, stronger regulation of the private rented sector, and an end to the Right to Buy scheme.”

The debate on housing came just after the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire in London, which saw 72 people killed in their homes.

Yet, said service group executive speaker John McLoughlin, “there are still people across the UK living in towers with the same deadly cladding.

“I’m not bothered by what Tories had up their noses,” he declared: “I’m bothered by the blood on their hands.”