Campaign for living wage, amid rising student costs
Despite Brighton being the 5th most expensive city in the country, Brighton students get the same budget as students living in cheaper cities, and less than those living in London.
In and around Brighton, for quite a basic student home, average rent prices are around £90 per student per week. This compared to an average of about £80 per week in Bristol and about £60 in Leicester, two cities in which the universities hold similar positions to Sussex in the national rankings.
Additionally, the university campus does not provide affordable accommodation. The cheapest accommodation on campus, East Slope, now costs over £80 a week. Some Sussex students have to subsidise their maintenance loan in order to cover the cost of campus accommodation, by undertaking paid work.
The minimum wage for those under the age of 21 is £4.98 per hour, which can act as a disincentive. With this money going exclusively towards rent, more financial aid is also needed for living expenses. In light of this information, those living and working in Brighton and Hove are campaigning to introduce a living wage.
The living wage would follow the examples of Ealing, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Oxford and Glasgow, in the introduction of a higher hourly minimum wage for the Brighton and Hove area.
The Brighton Living Wage Campaign argues that the National Minimum Wage of £5.93 for those over 21 is not enough to live on in the city of Brighton and Hove. The campaign group assert that implementing the living wage of approximately £7.60 per hour is a moral duty for the Brighton and Hove City Council.
They also argue that in introducing a living wage, the Council would allow excellent business benefits for the city. The Brighton Living Wage Campaign asserts that in introducing the Living Wage, the Council would allow a “higher quality of living for employees [which] enables them and their families to live above the poverty line.”
Member of Parliament for Brighton and Hove, Caroline Lucas has said that: “the minimum wage falls well short of what’s needed. More than a pound an hour short in fact. This means that anyone receiving the minimum wage is receiving poverty wages. And in 21st century Britain this is just not on”.
In response to the campaign, Brighton Council has pledged to introduce a Living Wage of £7.19 per hour for all Council employees. This move will benefit around 300 council workers in the city. The Council also plans to set up a Living Wage Commission, which the Council asserted will, from next July: “consider the potential to introduce a living wage for other employers in the city, including the private and voluntary sectors”. This may prove a vital economic boost for many student workers.
In addition, it might help to stimulate the debate for more considerate maintenance grants for students. Biomedical Sciences student Dan argues that “any wage increase for student workers would be beneficial.”