South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has raised serious concerns about new figures which show Dumfries and Galloway has the highest percentage of people earning less than the living wage of anywhere in Scotland.

Benchmarking figures released last week reveal that in Dumfries and Galloway, the rate has increased from 28.8 per cent in 2017-18 to 30.6 per cent in 2018-19.

This equates to around 17,000 people in the region.

The figure across the whole of Scotland in 2018-19 is 19.4 per cent.

The living wage is currently £9.30 per hour and is independently calculated each year, based on what employees and their families need to live on.

According to the Scottish Living Wage Foundation, 470,000 people in Scotland don’t earn the living wage at a time when in-work poverty remains a real problem

The Local Government Benchmarking Framework is a high-level benchmarking tool which helps councils compare their performance against a suite of efficiency, output and outcome indicators which cover all areas of local government activity. The framework now has eight years of data.

The latest figures have prompted the local MSP to encourage local business to become Living Wage Accredited employers.

South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “These benchmarking figures are very important for our councils to compare their performance, however, they also show just how many different issues our hard pressed local authorities have to deal with.

“The Council has a good track record when it comes to the Living Wage and was the first Council in Scotland to receive Living Wage accreditation. But the fact that 30.6 per cent of residents in Dumfries and Galloway were earning below the living wage in 2018-19 with other employers is deeply worrying and highlights the scandal of low pay that plagues our region.

“The living wage has been independently set to reflect what a worker and their family need to survive and the fact that so many of our region’s residents are living on so much less really concerns me.

“In-work poverty is a real issue which cannot be ignored, having a job is still no guarantee that you won’t face real poverty.

“At the end of January, we also saw that the number of crisis grants being applied for in Dumfries and Galloway had increased by 26 per cent in a year. All the evidence shows just how much people are under pressure in this time of austerity.

“In the recent Scottish Government’s draft budget, the SNP have shown they have no intention of providing local government with the funding it needs, with the prospect of cuts of £95m to core budgets and of £117m to capital funding.

“As we continue to see, poverty is still a real issue in our region and we need urgent action to help address it.

“I would strongly urge local businesses to become Living Wage accredited employers. As one myself, I know that the process is simple. Many businesses locally already pay above the Living Wage so it’s easy to sign up and I know others are keen to ensure they pay the Living Wage and this process can help them get to that stage. The more Living Wage employers we have the more likely we are to attract people to live in our region and that can only be good for businesses.”

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