11 years of the Living Wage in Brighton

Sarah Springford: the story behind the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign

There’ll soon be 900 employers signed up to the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign which is a credit to our city.

The local campaign has been led by Brighton Chamber for the past 12 years, supported by Brighton & Hove City Council and Unison Brighton.

As far as we know it’s the only business-led Living Wage Campaign in the UK and, to date, it’s resulted in over 4500 salaries elevated.

We asked Sarah Springford, the CEO at Brighton Chamber, about the campaign’s journey, the mark it’s made on the city, and what’s next.

Could you tell us about your role of CEO at Brighton Chamber?

I have headed up the team at Brighton Chamber since 2008. This was at another difficult time for the economy with a global financial crisis, but despite the economic climate, and maybe because of, the Chamber grew. Local businesses came together to support each other, and the Chamber provided a place to help that happen.

We have a huge programme of events designed to make it easy for people to make great connections. It includes Netwalking in and around Brighton, Big Debates on stimulating topics and our brilliant big annual conference, Brighton Summit (which is on 20 October this year).

As well as the Living Wage Campaign we deliver initiatives that support our members and the wider business community. Recently these have included several jobs fairs, our Net Zero Champions group and work with local secondary schools and colleges.

How did the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign come about?

In 2012, the then Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, Bill Randall, brought together key organisations in the city to form a Living Wage Commission. It met for a period of six months and at the end of that time, agreed that the city would benefit from having a local Living Wage Campaign.

The Chamber held a Big Debate, and the idea was unanimously supported. Brighton Chamber was asked to spearhead the campaign and the first employer, Brighton & Hove Buses, signed up.

Leading the campaign enables the Chamber to make a valuable contribution to the city’s business eco-system and sends out a clear signal about the importance of paying the Real Living Wage.

Brighton Chamber has been running the campaign for 11 years now – what have you learnt?

You don’t have to make a big song and dance to get stuff done. Sometimes working collaboratively; getting support from others to spread the word; and working creatively with what you have can achieve great results. The best thing has been to see the community of responsible employers growing to become a force for good in the city. I am proud that Brighton Chamber, and the business community, has played a part in making that happen.

We also want to give a shout out to the Living Wage Foundation who run the national campaign and who share their ideas with us.

How does Brighton Chamber and the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign work together?

The Brighton Chamber team includes our Living Wage Campaign Coordinator. The Chamber team are constantly engaging with businesses and other organisations through events and the support we offer. This means there are lots of opportunities to talk about the Living Wage and encourage employers to join the campaign.

What do you think the challenges are for the campaign, as we all navigate the cost-of-living crisis?

Paying the Real Living Wage is still a challenge for some businesses, especially those with smaller profits and high wage costs. But getting a minimum of the Real Living Wage is essential for anyone wanting to work in and around Brighton because of the cost of property and rents here. Employers are aware of this and those that want to keep their good staff are looking at what package of benefits they can offer them, and this includes a fair rate of pay.

What do you say to those who would like to join the campaign, but aren’t able to just yet?
Talk to others in your sector who are paying the Living Wage and find out how they are doing it. We can put you in touch. Don’t give up trying.

If you’d like to become a Living Wage employer, or think you might already be one, head over to the Brighton & Hove Living Wage website to find out more and sign up. There’s no cost to sign up and only takes a few minutes.