WORK is under way to make Hexham the first real living wage market town.

A group, which was formed from the Justice and Peace group held at St Mary’s Church, responded to rising demand at West Northumberland Food Bank, and hopes to end the need for those in paid employment to rely on help from a foodbank.

Real Living Wage Hexham will have a presence at the annual Tynedale Jobs Fair, to be held at Wentworth Leisure Centre tomorrow. Member Pat Devlin said: “We will be explaining to employers that there are over 5,000 accredited living wage employers. Their experience is it helps with staff retention, cuts down on sickness absences and increases motivation.”

Real living wage employers, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation, are those who pay all of their staff a minimum of £9 per hour, or £10.55 in London, and have a timescale for ensuring that all their contractors have the same baseline pay for all their employees.

Towns or cities can make a commitment to follow a three-year action plan setting out how they will work to ensure all employers pay a real living wage.

Pat added: “It is a long term project and not something that will happen overnight.

“I think we are in the preliminary year of being at the point of starting a three year programme.

“Now we are information gathering about what the situation is with employers in Hexham and gathering stories on those who are struggling. At the same time we are raising awareness.

“Dundee is registered as a living wage city and now has a three year plan for making that a reality.

“As of yet, no market towns have done it, and we would like to be the first one.”