FARM workers’ wages were raised in a council question.
It came from Little Neston and Burton councillor Louise Gittins (Lab) who is a member of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s rural regeneration board.
She asked the borough’s growth and innovation chief Cllr Herbert Manley (Con) what assessment the council had carried out on the effect the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board would have on rural communities.
The Government did not believe there would be a significant impact on wages, according to Cllr Manley. “However, there has been no national analysis undertaken to date on the wider potential impact on rural communities.
“Although there are a number of views largely from national organisations that see both positive and negative impacts, the general consensus is that until the abolition has been completed and the situation is monitored, no-one knows exactly what will happen.”
The rural regeneration board would be involved in a watching brief using its ‘extensive links’ with organisations such as the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association and Reaseheath College to help put information together.
Cllr Manley added: “We are also landlord of the Farms Estate and obviously there we will also keep a careful watch of the impact of the operation of the new regime on tenanted farms.
“We are therefore monitoring this in a very positive way to make sure there is no negative impact wherever possible,” he said.
Cllr Gittins said: “As Cllr Manley will know, the Agricultural Wages Board was set up 20 years ago to protect wages and terms and conditions of agricultural workers.
“Having toured round the rural villages to see what’s going on in them, I am worried that this will have an impact on our residents there.”
Cllr Manley said: “I think we need to monitor this closely. We need, as Cllr Gittins said, to look at our local area particularly where there are smaller farms and smaller communities to look at the impact on those.
“Where there are those smaller farms in communities they are normally self employed and hence they will most probably only employ seasonal workers to do their work at high peak times in the agricultural season, whatever that agricultural season is.
“So, yes, we do need to monitor it and that is what we will do and we will use the Rural Regeneration Board to watch the impact of this.”