Labour leader leaves Islington council blushing over unpaid internships

�Opposition leader Ed Miliband spoke out against unpaid internships at the town hall on Monday – even though Labour-run Islington Council employs two of its own.

A total of eight people were recruited on unpaid work experience placements advertised in June, two of whom are still in place months later.

Another internship was advertised in October – although the council now says it was a big mistake.

Living Wage

Mr Miliband was in Islington to mark the start of Living Wage Week. The council was one of the first two in the country to adopt the living wage for all of its employees – but not interns.

He said: “There is a big issue about internships, if they should be paid or unpaid. It’s a complicated area, but we need to move towards paid internships as a first step.”

A spokesman from the council’s recruitment department confirmed the placements are unpaid even if the employee works 35 hours a week and the positions do not lead to jobs.

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But the internships did offer experience in things like sending emails and answering telephone calls.

Those recruited in June will also be helped onto volunteering schemes if they want more work experience.

Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for children and families, said the latest advert was just the result of over-eager officers.

He said: “The council’s mistake was officers getting a bit carried away. They created the impression these were proper positions.

“Cllr Catherine West [leader of Islington Council] and I saw the adverts and asked for them to be removed.

“We aren’t comfortable with unpaid internships, though it seems daft if in a difficult financial situation we can’t help people get the skills they need to find employment.”

The last advert was pulled on October 10 by which time at least 17 people had responded. They were told the unpaid internship scheme was no longer available.

Living Wage Week runs until Saturday and on Monday the London Living Wage was increased to �8.55, which all Islington employees will get from next April.

Mr Miliband said: “I congratulate everyone in Islington Council on the fantastic job they are doing, not only becoming a living wage employer but pushing the boundaries of how it can be used to influence the private sector.

‘‘We can learn from the excellent work of local government here in Islington.”