Living wage a 'win win' - trust head

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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Philanthropy has an important role to play in a community.

That was the topic of the keynote address given by Trust for London chief executive Bharat Mehta at the Combined Community Trusts Conference, held in New Plymouth this week.

His organisation funded the Living Wage campaign in London.

"As our economies have prospered since the economic downturn in 2008 the inequalities between the rich and poor have grown phenomenally," he said yesterday.

That had all sort of implications for society.

"In-work poverty - people who work but fall below the poverty line - has increased and that's why we back the living wage. It's a way to get people not to have to depend on state benefits to subsidise their wages."

Families felt better, there was a social benefit in their involvement in community activities and employers benefited because staff turnover went down, he said.

"Government benefits because people pay a bit more tax. Poor people tend to spend money rather than save it, so it keeps shops open. It's one of those rare things: win, win, win."

People only thought about equality in economic terms and that was a critically important thing, but inequality expressed itself in different ways, including health and educational.

Several businesses had introduced the living wage, he said.

"And a number of councils have taken it up. Our biggest backer is [London] Mayor Boris Johnson."

Mr Mehta said there was more need for philanthropy than ever before.

"The theme of the conference, shifting tides, was saying it was important for community people to work together. And philanthropy has a role in enabling that to happen."

The TSB Community Trust hosted the conference and chairman Hayden Wano said child poverty in the community was one of the things the trust was looking at.

"I'm not saying we would have an active role, but would like to know what is out there and what are the organisations working in that area and understanding whether things can be done in a better way. That's a focus we have at the moment," he said.

"Our instinct isn't necessarily to say here's a solution, we're looking for a problem, but is to understand what it is and what was the need."

The trust also wanted to keep in touch with small community groups.

"So there is that engagement there. Those community groups are the hub of our community."

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