One is pictured by the tourist information at Visit Dorset: Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Lyme; thatched cottages; and cream teas with apple cake. Another is a hidden Dorset – a county of vast inequalities, with huge landed estates and inherited wealth alongside towns and villages in which thousands of families live below the poverty line.

Income poverty has become a feature of life in many villages and in the main urban area of “shire” Dorset – Weymouth and Portland. Seven neighbourhoods in Weymouth and Portland now fall within the top 20 per cent of most deprived wards in the UK – that’s two more than a decade ago. These figures track the overall performance of the local economy – economic activity in Weymouth and Portland has contracted by 13 per cent since 2007. Only one coastal area in the UK has had a faster rate of decline.

A new campaign is contesting poverty wages across the county. Low Pay – No Way! is launched in Dorchester on Wednesday 5 February.

Rogue employers

Poverty wages are concentrated in the “leisure” sector – increasingly important in the Dorset economy. This includes hotels, holiday camps, restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars and fast food outlets. Twice as many people work in this sector in South Dorset as in the national economy. It’s here too that employers are most likely to violate laws on the minimum wage, contracts, regular payment and in-work benefits such as holiday pay. These rogue bosses break the law, so that workers are deprived of wages and entitlements.

The effect is to depress incomes across a wide area, encouraging public sector employers and private businesses to pay wages that leave many households struggling. The impact is especially severe in the case of children: South Dorset has rising levels of child poverty, now reaching over 40 percent in some areas.

Trades unionists and community activists have begun a new campaign to challenge poverty pay. Low Pay – No Way! will be launched next week in Dorchester, with keynote speaker Nigel Costley, Secretary of the South-West TUC. Established by Dorset TUC (DTUC) and Weymouth & Portland Action on Wages (WeyPAW) the campaign asks Dorset Council to take a lead by committing promptly to pay the National Minimum Wage and by requiring all those contracted to the Council to do the same.

Jenny Lennon-Wood is Secretary of DTUC. She says: “For too many people, Dorset’s beautiful countryside masks a harsh reality of chronically low wages, family poverty and social deprivation. We can – and must – do better. The Low Pay – No Way! campaign brings the community and trades unions together to tackle the poverty pay, insecure jobs and high living costs that leave many struggling to make ends meet.

Real Living Wage

Low Pay – No Way! also wants Dorset Council, one of the county’s largest employers, to start preparations for introduction of the Real Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation. This is currently £9.30 an hour. Bristol City Council has already taken this important step.

Credit to Bristol Council,” says Jenny Lennon-Wood, “and if it’s good enough for Bristol it’s surely right for Dorset. Let’s see our Council take the lead.”

Low Pay – No Way! is launched on Wednesday 5 February, 7pm, at the Dorford Centre, Bridport Road, Dorchester. All are welcome.

See: Contact the campaign at: [email protected]


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