Jeremy Middleton, CEO of Newcastle-based £50m fund Middleton Enterprises.

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF MIDDLETON ENTERPRISES

This may sound a little odd coming from an employer and business owner, but I’m fully backing Chancellor George Osbourne’s calls for a rise in the minimum wage.

The move, which in a slightly bizarre reversal of traditional support for the Conservative Party, sparked alarm from many business groups and applause from the trade unions, has been interpreted by some as a cynical attempt to woo Labour voters – but I disagree. Upping the minimum wage is fully consistent with the Government’s economic policy of encouraging a strong private sector and rewarding those who want to work hard to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Prices have been outstripping wages since 2008, which has resulted in a very real and very difficult squeeze on household budgets for ordinary working people, with those on the minimum wage most severely affected. The Chancellor has said he’d like to see those earning the lowest wages have their incomes return to the same value as before the recession – and this is not only commendable, but fair. It’s socially conscious and by ensuring low wages rise at a higher rate than benefits, will reward and incentivise working families.

While I understand concerns that higher wages are “risky” and could lead to job cuts, provided any rise will be carefully calibrated on the advice of independent body the Low Pay Commission, I believe that low-paid workers can also enjoy the fruits of economic recovery without employers being hindered or jobs being affected.

In fact, a rise in the minimum wage would go some way to addressing the rising cost of living for hard-working people, which has become out of kilter during the economic downturn, with household incomes being increasingly stretched in the face of rising fuel and food costs. While the minimum wage has risen just pennies since the crash, we have seen energy bills double since 2004, with prices continuing to rise in this sector, despite the recession. The Chancellor’s call for a significant 11 per cent rise from £6.31 to £7 an hour meaning millions of workers could gain up to an extra £1,225 in year in their pay packets. After all, everyone in the UK was affected by the slump, so why should the benefits of the recovery just be confined to upper echelons of society?

I agree with the Chancellor when he says Britain can afford a higher minimum wage. Everyone in the country who gets up and goes out to work every morning has put in a lot of effort to get to this point and they should all be able to enjoy it. The recovery means employers can afford to take on new staff and pay higher wages – and if they want to keep and nurture the employees they value, they should perhaps consider sharing the wealth.

ENDS

CONTACT: Lauren Pyrah on 01325 363436

Notes to Editors:

Middleton Enterprises Ltd is a private investment company that has made a substantial contribution to the North East’s economy by investing in and providing business advice to entrepreneurial businesses.

During recent years, it has supported a number of North East businesses, generally from start-up, usually taking a minority stake and offering strategic advice to support growth.

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Jeremy Middleton, CEO of Newcastle-based £50m fund Middleton Enterprises.
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