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Unfunded National Living Wage increases would risk local services and jobs

IN the Spring Statement, the Government reiterated its target for the NLW to reach 2 thirds of median earnings by 2024. The most recent forecasts published by the Low Pay Commission indicate that the NLW could increase by almost 20% in the next 2 years.

The LGA said bringing the pay of the lowest paid Council staff in line with these forecasts would cost almost £400 million. The true cost is likely to be significantly higher given the knock on impact of the dramatic rise in minimum pay levels on other local Government pay grades and the increased cost of commissioned or outsourced services, such as adult social care.

Without central Government support to cover the cost, the LGA said Councils will be unable to keep pace with stark NLW increases without having to take the drastic decision to cut services and/or jobs.

The LGA analysis on the National Living Wage forms part of a wider set of findings around the impact of energy prices and inflation on Council budgets this year, to be published at its Annual Conference next week.

The LGA estimates that 35% of local Government staff could end up paid no more than the NLW by 2024 unless additional funding is secured. This would cover almost all non teaching staff in Schools as well as:- social care workers, library teams, catering staff and entry roles for professions such as planning, and environmental health.

Even before the revised forecast for the NLW, an LGA workforce survey found 15% of Councils were already considering having to reduce staffing numbers. 6 in 10 Councils said the workforce capacity of their Council to deliver services was a moderate or large concern.

Cllr Andrew Western, Chair of the LGA's Resources Board, said:- "Councils know this year will be tough for many, especially those on the lowest incomes. Supporting those on the lowest pay is not only fair but improves the motivation, loyalty, productivity, and retention of hard working Council staff. However, staff pay makes up a huge proportion of Councils' costs and it is clear that the rising cost of living is going to have a huge knock on impact on pay pressures for local Government. The forecasted sharp rise in the National Living Wage; if unfunded; would hit Council budgets hard and put services at risk. Only by fully funding the cost, can central Government ensure Councils can continue to protect vital services; such as:- adult social care, homelessness support, collecting bins and filling potholes, and the jobs of the front line public sector workers that deliver them."

Independent bookshop challenges High Street dyslexia exclusion

A leading UK independent bookshop has called out major book publishers for not doing enough to support dyslexic readers.

Books on the Hill, located in Clevedon, North Somerset, established the BOTH Press publishing house to fund and produce larger font books aimed at dyslexic readers.

The social enterprise was launched in direct response to the absence of dyslexic friendly fiction for adults in UK bookshops.

The UK Government reports that 10% of the UK population is dealing with dyslexia. It's estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia. 1 in 6 adults has the reading level of an 11 year old.

On a global scale, between 5% to 10% of the population are suffering from dyslexia. 85 percent of parents report their children feel embarrassed by their dyslexia.

BOTH Press held its 1st Kickstarter campaigner in 2021, successfully raising £6,300 and publishing8 dyslexic friendly fiction titles, including:- The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling.

The team launched their 2nd Kickstarter:- "Open Dyslexia - the sequel" on 7 June and this will run until 4 July 2022, with an aim of raising £16,000.

It aims to publish8 more titles of high quality fiction from bestselling authors such as Bernard Cornwell, Peter James and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Dyslexia friendly titles have larger fonts in Verdana, which is easier to read, and thicker paper so the ink does not bleed through from the other side. Book pages are cream coloured rather than white, providing a greater contrast for dyslexic readers to make out the text more easily, and there are larger gaps between sentences and paragraphs.

BOTH Press will need more than £20,000 a year to keep publishing dyslexia friendly titles regularly. All funds go toward the book production and life cycle to make them readily available.

BOTH Press hopes the fundraiser's success will encourage the:- "Big 5" UK publishers to reconsider the commercial viability of bespoke dyslexia friendly titles for a massive untapped market of adult dyslexic readers.

Books on the Hill is managed by Dr Alistair Sims who created BOTH Press. Dr Sims receives no profits from the project.

BOTH Press has had many heart-warming responses about how the books have impacted the lives of adult readers with an easier, more comprehensible and enjoyable leisure read.

Dr Alistair Sims, founder and manager of Books on the Hill and BOTH Press, said:- "Many individuals who have told us their stories do not want to be mentioned due to fear of stigma about their struggle to read. For years we have had customers tell us of relatives who love stories, and would love to read, but have endured a lifetime of being called stupid. It is brilliant that a sea of children's books now come in dyslexic friendly formats. But that is a recent development, and there are hundreds of thousands of adults who have never had the opportunity to read for leisure with all the benefits that brings. This Kickstarter is not a choice, it is a necessity. UK book publishers have had decades to get this right. It is nonsense to think dyslexics do not want to read. That there is no serious offering accommodating the 10 percent of the population who struggle to read perpetuates the myth, More than anything we want to give people a choice, but we want to usher in a commercial and attitude change to how people understand and approach dyslexia. We are asking people to support this Kickstarter, but we area also calling out the "Big Five" Publishers for overlooking the massive potential and reading appetites of adults with dyslexia."


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