WAGES for the lowest paid staff in Hampshire County Council could be in for a boost as bosses mull over paying them at a higher rate to raise living standards.

An influential committee will today debate the pros and cons of introducing the ‘living wage”, based on how much a parent of two, with a partner earning the same, needs in order to avoid the effects of poverty.

If it wins support from the Tory-led council it would mean more than 4,000 staff, including care and school support staff, would have their hourly rates raised to £7.45.

Already Eastleigh Borough Council and Southampton City Council have signalled they are ready to introduce the wage boost in a bid to reduce poverty.

But a report for the employment in Hampshire County Council committee warns it would not be without costs.

It states that the £1.5m price tag of introducing it would squeeze out 71 jobs.

Yet the report sets out benefits too. This is based on research by the Living Wage Foundation, which found that 80 per cent of employers believe it boosted the quality of work among staff and that there was a 25 per cent fall in absenteeism.

This comes after research by Citizens UK, who are campaigning for every worker in the country to be able to earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life, found there were 90,000 people in south Hampshire being paid less than the living wage.

In Southampton, 16,000 staff – almost one fifth across the city – earn less than £7.45 per hour, the key figure.

That proportion is much higher in the worst-hit areas.

In Gosport, 27 per cent of people earn under the living wage, the Isle of Wight has 24 per cent under this number and Eastleigh has 21 per cent.

The living wage is calculated by the Centre of Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and is £7.45 an hour for adults compared to the current minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.