Living wage: ‘Platitudes not enough’, Archbishop of York declares

British workers need more than "platitudes" from politicians if a national living wage is to be achieved, the Archbishop of York has said.

Dr John Sentamu used a comment piece for the Observer newspaper to call for more to be done to help the five million people who earn above the minimum wage of £6.19 per hour, but not enough for a basic standard of living.

"The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal," Sentamu wrote.

The living wage, set at £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 across the rest of the country, has attracted support from leaders of all the main political parties.

"At the end of the day, though, what workers really need is pay, not platitudes," he added.

"The reality is that despite these warm words, too few companies have stepped up to the mark.

"For the vast majority of low-paid people in the UK, the living wage remains an abstract concept, not a description of their pay rate."

Two hundred and eighty four businesses have adopted the living wage, but the Living Wage Commission which Sentamu has agreed to chair will be seeking to work out how it can be rolled out nationwide.

"Commissioners will research and assess evidence on the value of the living wage, barriers to its implementation and how these could be overcome," the Commission explained.

It will hope to persuade ministers by pointing out the taxpayer spends £4 billion a year on in-work support for low earners.

Around £2 billion a year could be saved and nationwide income boosted by £6.5 billion a year, research by the Resolution Foundation and IPPR think-tanks suggests.

"At a time when typical wages have flatlined but prices have continued rising, concerted action to drive up levels of pay for low earners is an essential component in the improvement of living standards," IPPR's senior research fellow Kayte Lawton said.

"As a first step, making sure that all council staff in London are paid at least the living wage wouldn't cost very much but would be an important symbol of political leadership.

"Councils in other parts of the country, like Glasgow and Newcastle, have shown that the living wage can be affordable even though the costs are higher."