A Labour run Birmingham City Council would use its £1 billion per year purchasing power to boost the city’s economy, grow businesses and create jobs, it has been claimed.
The Labour group has drawn up a detailed procurement policy under which contractors will be expected to demonstrate social responsibility and a positive impact on the local economy, such as through job creation or local apprenticeships.
The group also plans to create a new Cabinet member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement to focus attention on gaining full value from the myriad of deals with contractors, suppliers and service providers.
And a new Buy Birmingham First scheme will be introduced for all new contracts and purchases under £173,000 - the figure at which EU tender regulations kick in - to boost the local economy.
Labour needs to win four extra seats on May 3 to take control of the city council from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition and is currently riding high in the opinion polls.
Group leader Sir Albert Bore said: “We will harness the immense power of procurement that Birmingham can use, as the largest local authority in Europe, to build our local economy, create jobs and apprenticeships for young people. That is Labour’s vision.”
In a linked move the group has also guaranteed a living wage of £7.20 per hour to all workers if it seizes control of the council on May 3.
Labour claims that 2,743 of the lowest paid staff, most of them women in part-time cleaning and cooking jobs in schools earning between £6.39 and £7.15 per hour, will see their pay improved under the election pledge.
The legal minimum wage is currently £6.08 an hour.
The "living wage guarantee" would add £1.2 million to the council’s wage bill, a sum which Labour bosses claim is ‘achievable within the current budget constraints’.
They also believe that it will motivate staff and improve productivity at a time when the council workforce is under severe pressure and expected to cope with major changes.
Living wage is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University as the income needed to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living and has been adopted by several London borough councils, Glasgow City Council as well as Barclays Bank, HSBC and accountants KPMG.
Erdington MP Jack Dromey, the former senior Unite union official who developed the local Labour manifesto with Sir Albert, said: “A Labour council will lead the fight against working poverty that blights our society and our economy. To offer those who work hard and yet struggle to provide for their families dignity in work.
“From Glasgow to London, people are starting to realise the simple truth that if you pay people better you boost productivity. By paying people a living wage we will take the pressure off the exchequer through benefits and tax credits, putting more money in people’s pockets to spend in the local economy.
“We will show the country that Birmingham is a strong and vibrant city working together to tackle the worst housing crisis in a generation, soaring youth unemployment, and, crucially, a city committed to no Birmingham citizen earning less than a living wage of £7.20 an hour.”