Guest Blogs

2019 – a busy year but the fight against poverty goes on

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A big thank you to everyone who attended the Learning from lived experience meeting at Church House last week. Nearly 50 people came together to identify the themes and issues that have emerged from projects that sought to engage people with lived experience of poverty in policy making and with decision makers. In total 14 different groups were represented at the meeting.

With last week’s meeting building on the Inequality Hearing project  we ran with Oxfam earlier in the year, and a number of conversations taking place across Greater Manchester about running local poverty truth commissions, we are excited about the role GMPA can play in 2020 in bringing the voices of people experiencing poverty to the fore. The Inequality Hearing project was a 2019 highlight for GMPA, as we continue to grow our work and impact.

It has certainly been a busy year. Over the past 12 months we have shared 22 newsletters with you packed with a wide range of topical articles, opinion pieces, news, reports and events.  Other highlights have included:

•  launching our Mini Poverty Monitor
•  updating our poverty strategies map ,
•  hosting a one day conference ‘Prosperity for all?’ with the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit, and
•  launching the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan.

Since the launch of the Action Plan, over 100 pledges have been made to tackle food poverty by organisations from across the city region. We will continue to support the implementation of the Action Plan in 2020.

We continue to host the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign . Our 2019 work on the Campaign culminated with Living Wage Week  in November. Please see John’s write up of Living Wage Week in the December 4th edition of the newsletter.

Our maps  of support services are extremely popular and well used and we have also provided a number of very well attended training courses. There are more training courses on our calendar for 2020 and you can book your places now .

This is our last 2019 Newsletter. We will be back in January, so If you would like to submit an article or event
information for inclusion in the newsletter, please do get in touch. Our contact details are shown on the following page.

We are proud of the impact our work is having, but we know that the fight against poverty continues and that we couldn’t do what we do without your support. Many, many people have worked with us in 2019 to achieve all of the above. Thank you.

In the meantime we would like to wish you a peaceful and happy CHRISTMAS SEASON and we look forward to a NEW YEAR full of opportunities that can be shared equally by everyone.

Graham, Tom, Chris and John

Busy year - Christmas decorations for GM Poverty Action


i3oz9s2019 – a busy year but the fight against poverty goes on
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Report on GM Living Wage week November 11th – 17th 2019

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This year’s Living Wage Week was a busy one for the GM Living Wage Campaign as we were involved in activities and events across Greater Manchester with partners and supporters.

GM Living Wage Campaign Living Wage Week Good Employment Charter for GM Poverty Action

Chris Smallwood, Martha Crawford and John Hacking

On Wednesday November 13th we ran a joint briefing event with The Good Employment Charter Implementation Unit at Salford Museum. The event was attended by over 25 employers who are supporters of the Greater Manchester Employment Charter and featured presentations on the benefits of the Living Wage from the GM Living Wage Campaign, Martha Crawford from the Living Wage Foundation and Chris Smallwood, MD of the Salford-based Living Wage Employer Anchor Removals. A blog on the Good Employment Charter website gives more information about the event.

At the Living Wage Foundation’s launch event in Salford on November  11th, Salford was recognised for its ambition to be England’s first accredited Living Wage Place. GM Living Wage Campaign is a member of Salford’s Living Wage Place Action group and a sponsor of the Living Wage bid. At the event there was the welcome announcement of Manchester City Council and Oldham Council becoming the latest GM local authorities to become Living Wage Employers. There was a commitment from Manchester City Council to take the next step to becoming a Living Wage Place and the GM Living Wage Campaign has been asked by Manchester City Council to work with them to achieve this objective.

On November 13th we partnered with Boo Consulting, a Living Wage Employer in Bolton to hold a Living Wage networking session. We attended the event along with 10 Bolton employers, some of whom are already  Living Wage Employers and others who wanted to know more. The event was a great success and we will be working with colleagues in Bolton to work towards Bolton becoming a Living Wage Place.

GM Living Wage Campaign Living Wage Week Tony 'Longfella' Walsh for GM Poverty Action

Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh

We also ran an extensive social media campaign to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of paying the real Living Wage. The campaign celebrated accredited employers and featured key GM figures photographed showing their commitment to the campaign for the Living Wage. We had a range of supporters from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community sector organisations and private business. We also had a pledge of support from Manchester poet Tony Walsh aka Longfella. The hashtag #GMLivingWage was widely used through the week on Twitter. We also shared information through our social media networks, to support the action taken by GM Citizens at Stockport Town Hall to lobby Stockport Council to become a Living Wage Employer.

If you want any more information about Living Wage Week in particular or the GM Living Wage Campaign in general then email the GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

Follow the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign on Twitter and Facebook



i3oz9sReport on GM Living Wage week November 11th – 17th 2019
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Living Wage Week 2019

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Living Wage Week
Monday November 11th – Sunday November 17th, 2019
By John Hacking, Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator

Living Wage Week is almost upon us and the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign will be busy delivering, supporting and promoting a range of events and activities about the benefits and importance of paying the Real Living Wage. These are some of the activities that you can get involved with, but for up to the minute information during Living Wage Week visit our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday November 13th, 2019 from 8.30 – 10am: the Campaign will be holding a joint event with the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter. The event is aimed at GM employers who are interested in the Charter and finding out more about the Living Wage and will be held in Salford Museum and I will be speaking along with local accredited Living Wage Employer, Anchor Removals, and the Living Wage Foundation. The event is for employers in GM and if you want to come along then please book a place here.

Real Living Wage Supporters Network event for GM Poverty Action

Wednesday November 13th, 2019 from 2 – 3.30pm: The Campaign is delighted to be partnering with another accredited Living Wage Employer, Boo Consulting, to deliver an exciting Living Wage Week event in Bolton later that day. I will be speaking again and any employer in Bolton can come along and find out more about the Living Wage. Book a place at this event here.

Other events and actions:

The Campaign is also working with accredited Living Wage Employer IKEA at their Ashton-under-Lyne branch to organise an in-store promotion to celebrate their continuing commitment as a Living Wage Employer. More detail on this will be on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The Campaign is still working with partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors on other events and activities during Living Wage Week. We are in close contact with GM Citizens and will be working with them to ensure maximum coverage for the message about the Living Wage throughout Greater Manchester. If you want any more information about Living Wage Week or the GM Living Wage Campaign then do send me an email. We hope to see you in Living Wage Week.




i3oz9sLiving Wage Week 2019
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2020 Training dates

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2020 training dates for GMPA’s network

We are pleased to be launching our 2020 training course programme, with discounted rates for people who book prior to November 1st, 2019. We are delighted to be offering an expanded series of dates and topics for 2020, with our Understanding poverty measurement, definitions and data course taking place in Oldham and Wigan for the first time. Bookings can be made by visiting the training page of the GMPA website.

A new course – Maximising support for people on low incomes – has been developed. This course is for VCSE and public sector organisations who work with people experiencing poverty and who wish to understand how to maximise support for their service users and those involved in service design and delivery. It will also be of interest to researchers seeking to understand current social security provision.

The Maximising support for people on low incomes course will be held in central Manchester and run on the
following dates.

  • Thursday January 30th, 2020 (only 4 places remaining)
  • Friday February 28th, 2020
  • Tuesday April 28th, 2020
  • Thursday October 8th, 2020

Bookings for this course can be made here.

The popular Understanding poverty measurement, definitions and data course will be held on the following dates:

  • Thursday February 6th, 2020 (Oldham)
  • Thursday March 12th, 2020 (Manchester city centre)
  • Wednesday November 18th, 2020 (Wigan)

This course is for organisations who wish to strengthen the case for their work by presenting accurate and relevant data about poverty to funders, supporters and policy and decision makers. By the end of this one-day course participants will have developed an understanding of what key poverty datasets tell us, how best to access data sources and how to use this knowledge to support the work that they do. Book here to secure your place.

We will also be delivering our half-day Exploring the Poverty Premium course on:

  • Wednesday March 18th, 2020

Course attendees will be able to better understand the poverty premium, the way it affects customers, clients and consumers and how they can amend and ‘poverty proof’ their practices. Bookings for this course can be made here.

The aim of all of our training is to respond to the needs of our network and to generate income for GMPA. The training is delivered through Policy North Training. Policy North Training has been established to increase the amount of training offered by GMPA in Greater Manchester in 2020. Beyond 2020, Policy North Training will look to deliver training courses in other parts of the country to help increase the amount of revenue raised to support GMPA’s activities.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
GMPA Director

For full details of all our course, including downloadable course overviews, please visit the training page of our website.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.



i3oz9s2020 Training dates
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National Action needed to end food poverty

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by Tom Skinner

As regular readers of this newsletter will know, GMPA coordinates the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, and launched the Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester earlier this year. The Action Plan describes how we should work together (and in many cases, already are working together) at the local level to help address food poverty.

However, the Plan recognises that the power we have to address poverty at the local level is limited, and that many of the levers such as the welfare system, minimum wages, pensions, and funding for local authorities and public health, are held at the national level. We need wholehearted and strategic support at the national level for ending food insecurity, by addressing the underlying causes of poverty as well as improving access to good food.

We were therefore pleased to have the chance to submit evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment.

We shared insights from across the Alliance, academics and people experiencing poverty, and pointed to a great deal of good practice being carried out by councils and other organisations across Greater Manchester. On the role of the UK Government we said,

“Things need to change. Wages and benefits haven’t kept up with living costs while essential public services
have been cut, so hard-stretched communities are picking up the pieces with responses that are well-intentioned
and vital, but inadequate. The burden of mitigating food insecurity is falling on the wrong sector, with food
banks struggling to retain volunteers (many of whom are older), and unable to meet the overwhelming need
of so many people in their communities. While efforts are made in some cases to offer “wrap-around support”
such as debt and welfare advice alongside food provision, these efforts are undermined by cuts to those
(and other) services. At a time when the Government should take responsibility for ensuring a right to food, it has stepped
back and left the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to take on an impossible task.”

We called on the Government to enshrine a right to food in UK law by embedding the Sustainable Development Goal “zero hunger by 2030” into domestic legislation, and appointing a minister responsible for meeting this goal. We also listed a number of other actions that could be taken at the national level, including:

  • Raising the minimum wage to the Real Living Wage for all workers over 18. In the interim, or if this is not possible for all sectors/employers, full support should be given to the Real Living Wage as a voluntary scheme for employers to sign up to, while ending exploitative practices associated with zero hours contracts.
  • Ensuring that the welfare system, including pensions, provides enough for people and families to live on. The system should engage with claimants to understand their needs and build support around them. Reinstate ring-fenced and increased budgets for Local Welfare Assistance Schemes for when people fall through the gaps in the welfare system.
  • Increasing levels of social and affordable housing.
  • Requiring local authorities to have poverty strategies in place (co-produced with people experiencing poverty, the VCSE sector and other partners), and to appoint lead members who will take responsibility for the implementation of these strategies.
  • Action to address food deserts and the poverty premium
  • More support and emphasis on the Healthy Start scheme, targets for each area to increase uptake.
  • Measuring food insecurity at the national and local level
  • Involving people experiencing poverty, and the public, VCSE and private sectors in an “exit strategy” for over-reliance on food banks
Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

You can see the full submission here and comment here by signing up to the Greater Manchester Food Forum – we would welcome your feedback as we continue to learn together.





You may have noticed the new Food Poverty Alliance logo – we hope you like it!
The Food Poverty Alliance is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action project


i3oz9sNational Action needed to end food poverty
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Tackling economic inequality

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by Graham Whitham

As part of Oxfam’s Inequality Hearings project, GMPA recently worked with Oxfam to bring together Greater Manchester’s
citizens, service providers and decision makers to discuss economic inequality in the region and the impact it has on people’s lives.
Inequality Hearings are a new project by Oxfam being delivered in 10 locations around the UK to engage its citizens in conversation and influence decision makers, encouraging them to take action to reduce economic inequality.

Oxfam is campaigning to tackle economic inequality because apart from it being fundamentally unfair, it undermines their fight against poverty. The drive for growth and profit means millions of people around the world are being left behind despite the vast amount of wealth, resources and opportunities that exist. At GMPA we were keen to understand what economic inequality means to people in our network, people experiencing poverty and how it relates to efforts to tackle poverty. At a well-attended Inequality Hearing in central Manchester in June, people came together to discuss the issues and challenges and chose to focus particularly on employment opportunities. The Hearing built on two ‘prep sessions’ we held in Oldham and Wigan in May. Attendees from those sessions were joined at the Hearing by other stakeholders and citizens, including influential local leaders and decision makers.

We heard from attendees about their personal experiences struggling to make ends meet, as well as their thoughts and opinions about what needs to change in order to really make a difference. One of the common themes that emerged was that economic inequality often hits women harder than men, as they try to balance caring responsibilities and paid employment. High childcare costs mean that families are struggling to afford a basic standard of living. Among the delegates, married mum of two, Emma, talked about having to pay £50 per day for her childcare. Emma works part time and looks after her children, but the family doesn’t have much money. She told us “By the time childcare and travel costs are paid, it hardly seems worth it. I stay in work for the future not because it is financially beneficial. I know when both my children are older, it will help that I have continued to work. Its just a struggle trying to make ends meet now.”

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
Director of GMPA

The feedback from the hearing was extremely positive, with people appreciating the space for conversation and expressing an urgent need for change. Some of the ideas to reduce inequality that emerged were the need to revaluate what we see as valuable in society, for citizens to have a stronger voice in decision making processes and for greater opportunities for people to retrain and enhance their skills. The outcomes have been shared with Greater Manchester’s MPs.

You can keep in touch with Oxfam’s campaign to tackle global economic inequality by following them at @oxfamcampaigns

If you would like more information about the Inequality Hearings Project, please contact Kelly Mundy


You can also watch a short Oxfam video here


i3oz9sTackling economic inequality
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Fighting together for free access to justice

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By Tom Skinner

Under austerity, welfare reform and cuts to essential services have resulted in not only financial hardship but also confusion about how to access support, disproportionately affecting people in poverty who rely more on those services. In that context, reliable accessible to advice and justice can be a crucial lifeline to millions of people in need of support, advice and information to help them maximise their incomes, minimise their exposure to financial shocks, and navigate the changing support services available to them.

Unfortunately, this type of support has come under huge pressure in recent years. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed more than £350m from the Legal Aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in many areas of the law. Funding for Citizens Advice Bureaux from cash-strapped local authorities and from other agencies was significantly reduced, and law centres closed at an astonishing rate  – Greater Manchester, which once had nine law centres, now has only three, in Bury, Rochdale and Manchester.

This is why Greater Manchester Poverty Action endorses Greater Manchester Law Centre’s manifesto, “Fighting Together for Free Access to Justice”, a vision of a fairer society in which everyone has a part to play. It calls for:

  • Law Centres to enforce the legal rights of individuals and campaign with others for change.
  • The restoration of a fully funded legal aid system to sit alongside publicly funded and accountable health, social security, transport and housing services.
  • A supportive social security system.
  • A new generation of social welfare lawyers, developing and retaining legal expertise in social welfare law.
  • The right to a secure home and the protection of renters’ rights.
  • An end to the hostile environment for claimants and migrants, including adequate compensation for those
    affected by the Windrush scandal.
  • Collaboration between legal and advice services, community groups and campaigning organisations to launch strategic legal challenges to injustice


Free access to Justice editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

By working together we can build towards a country and a city region that ensures access to justice, so we encourage you to read the manifesto to see what role you could play.




i3oz9sFighting together for free access to justice
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GMPA launches new Mini Poverty Monitor resource

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By Graham Whitham

At GMPA we have developed a new page on our website detailing some of the key statistics about poverty and people’s experiences of living in Greater Manchester. The aim of the ‘Mini Poverty Monitor’ is to support people to access data about poverty quickly and easily. Data is provided either at a Greater Manchester level and/or a local authority level (detailing statistics for each of the ten GM boroughs).

The page is broken down into seven sections: Child poverty, Housing, The labour market, Social security, Education, Health and Fuel poverty, food poverty and the poverty premium. The monitor does not present an exhaustive list of statistics relating to poverty in Greater Manchester, but it is a snapshot of key indicators that we know are of interest to members of our network.

The poverty monitor highlights the stark differences in the experiences of people living in different parts of Greater Manchester. Drawing on a range of existing datasets the monitor shows that:

  • Child poverty is highest in Manchester at 45% and lowest in Trafford at 19%.
  • Workers living in Oldham are paid on average £5 less per hour than workers in Trafford.
  • A third of adults (33%) in Oldham lack level 3 (equivalent to A-level) qualifications compared to 18% of adults in Trafford.
  • People working in Rochdale are nearly three times more likely to be in jobs paying at or below the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage than people working in Salford.
  • Men born in Stockport can expect to live to 80 compared to 76 in Manchester, whilst women born in Trafford can expect to live 4 years longer than their counterparts in Manchester.
  • School readiness among girls is highest in Trafford at 81.5% and lowest in Oldham at 68.7%. For boys it is highest in Trafford at 67.3% and lowest in Oldham at 54.3%.

The data masks some of the huge inequalities within boroughs, including those local authority areas that are often perceived as more affluent. For example, in Trafford the ward with the highest rate of child poverty is Clifford ward where nearly half (48.2%) of children are in poverty. This contrasts with Timperley ward which has the lowest child poverty rate in the borough (15.2%).

GMPA is calling on each of the ten local authorities and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop robust anti-poverty strategies and appoint a lead for tackling poverty. This would ensure that poverty doesn’t ‘fall between the cracks’ of different local authority agendas, that effective local efforts to tackle poverty are scaled up and replicated more quickly and help create a unified voice against poverty across Greater Manchester.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham Director, GM Poverty Action

We know from our network that there are some exciting initiatives in different parts of Greater Manchester seeking to address poverty and give everyone a fair chance in life.

If you have any comments about the Mini Poverty Monitor please contact us by email.  GMPA is keen on developing a more comprehensive poverty monitor in the future. Please contact us if this is something you could support us with.



i3oz9sGMPA launches new Mini Poverty Monitor resource
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Food Power Conference

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Reflections on the 2019 Food Power conference

By Rebecca St. Clair and Megan Blake

Last month, Food Power, an initiative that helps local communities and alliances work collaboratively to reduce food poverty, held their second annual conference in Newcastle. We went to represent the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, and as it so closely followed the launch of the GM Food Poverty Action Plan, the conference provided the ideal opportunity for us to hear from groups at a more advanced stage of action plan implementation, and to share our experiences with those just beginning on the journey of forming alliances or partnerships.

The event kicked-off on the Tuesday evening with a get-together at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. The venue reflected an integral theme of the conference, around sharing experiences, learning from one another and telling stories. The Men’s Pie Club, a project that brings people together to cook while combatting social isolation and mental and physical health problems, provided delicious pies for everyone. After our meal, we heard about the Darwen Gets Hangry campaign and Edgelands, a film made by young people, about young people and food poverty.

Wednesday was structured around a series of parallel workshops and key themes from our perspective included:

  • Local knowledge and a place-based approach
  • Action plans and advocacy informed by research and collaboration
  • Inclusivity

In a workshop discussing the role of networks and national programmes, questions raised included:  Can national campaigns effectively support experts in localities while being aware of local sensitivities and avoiding the duplication of efforts? How can national programmes ensure they communicate with all the relevant local people/community groups, particularly when landscapes shift so frequently? Conversely, where can local groups go to find out about national campaigns? It seems that there is a need for easily accessible information about national and local initiatives and while the Sustainable Food Cities website details numerous campaigns and food partnerships, the lists are by no means an exhaustive. As Kath Dalmeny of Sustain observed, navigating networks and activities can be a messy process, but this often seems unavoidable.

In a workshop on the development of alliances and action plans, Moray Foodbank spoke about their food poverty action plan and the research carried out to support its development. During focus groups and interviews, the group learnt that people experiencing food poverty were often exposed to judgemental attitudes from professional service providers and it became clear there is still a desperate need to remove the stigma around food poverty. As a result, Moray included this as the top priority of their action plan. Others seeking guidance on framing conversations about food poverty may find the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Project Twist a useful point of reference.

Regarding the need for partnerships and alliances to be inclusive, ideas raised included varying the location of meetings to give everyone the best chance of attending; identifying common aims and ensuring participation is mutually beneficial; recruiting experts by experience first (Oxford used this approach and reported that it has worked well).

Rebecca St Clair Food power confernece article for GM Poverty Action

Rebecca St. Clair

One workshop focused on the Healthy Start voucher scheme, designed to support families with young children and pregnant mothers on low incomes to buy fruit, vegetables and milk. The vouchers, which must be signed-off by health professionals, are allocated per child/per week and distributed on a monthly basis. Currently only 64% of eligible households claim their vouchers, so Food Power is working to raise awareness and increase uptake. Sustain’s Healthy Start toolkit outlines actions that can be taken on a range of levels.

Megan Blake Food power article for GM Poverty Action

Megan Blake

The conference gave us a real sense of the pride that Newcastle has in its history, its reputation for hospitality and community spirit and its food heritage. As with many areas, Newcastle has suffered sustained cuts to local services and witnessed the all-too-familiar trends of more people accessing food banks, finding themselves at the mercy of precarious employment, low wages and a weakened welfare system. A message that featured throughout the event was that while organisations and individuals are rightly proud of their communities coming together and supporting those most in need, they are simultaneously outraged by the very existence of food poverty. Clearly, local action should take place alongside campaigns for national-scale structural adjustments and longer-term planning to ensure the continuation of place-based forms of support that help to restore and strengthen our communities.


i3oz9sFood Power Conference
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MCC and the Living Wage

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Manchester City Council sets out its ambition to be an accredited Living Wage Employer

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign launched in 2013, and within months a supporter of the campaign, who was also a councillor, proposed a resolution for Manchester City Council to pay at least the Real Living Wage. The Campaign played an active role in the Task & Finish Group that followed, and the Council resolved to also attempt to roll out the Living Wage to the Council’s contracted workers.

One of our first successes was therefore with Manchester City Council, resulting in a pay rise for over a thousand workers. However, the Council was reticent at the time to make this a public long-term commitment by becoming accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. So while we celebrated the success and the resulting increases in take-home pay, we maintained that the job was incomplete.

Accreditation is the best platform from which to engage other employers and encourage them to implement the Real Living Wage. It commits employers to making a clear plan for the rollout of the Real Living Wage to their contracted and sub-contracted workers, and enables the Living Wage Foundation to support the employer to do so. Accredited by an independent organisation, it gives employers the right to use the Living Wage kite mark and to promote their credentials as a Living Wage Employer.

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign affirms the importance of accreditation, and has a vision of a Living Wage City Region in which all councils and other major employers accredit, and take action to bring other employers on board. We have raised this consistently in several subsequent meetings with the Council.

Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

For this reason we are delighted to share that Manchester City Council has set out its ambition to be an accredited Living Wage Employer. They join Oldham in making this announcement, and seek to join Salford as fully accredited Living Wage Employers. We will support these Councils with this process, and call on the remaining seven GM join to join them as accredited Living Wage Employers.

If you would like to join us in action on the Real Living Wage but are not yet signed up to receive updates directly from the Campaign please email:  with ‘Sign Up’ in the subject line.




i3oz9sMCC and the Living Wage
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