Robinson placed last in the recent Taylor's Table, which ranks colleges based on their treatment of their lowest paid workersLouis Ashworth

Senior Labour Party Cambridge Councillors have called on Robinson College to contribute to helping tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis by letting out homes under their ownership to low-paid members of college staff.

Robinson owns several properties in Romsey Terrace, based just off Mill Road, which were previously let to students, but have lain empty for several years.

Councillor Richard Johnson, executive councillor for housing on the Labour-controlled Cambridge City Council, said that officers from the Council’s Empty Homes Team have for several months been discussing with the College how they could bring these empty homes back into use.

He continued: “My understanding is that they are currently refurbishing these properties, and wish to sell them on the open market. I suggest a better approach would be for them to be let out, preferably at below-market-rent levels, to members of their lowest paid staff.”

Johnson added that it is time Cambridge colleges “showed more leadership and made more of an active contribution in working alongside us in addressing the city’s twin problems of low pay and the lack of affordable housing - problems which extend far beyond the university ‘bubble.’”

This comes after the recent release of the Taylor’s Table, a study compiled by students Joe Cook and Abdullah Shah, which ranks Cambridge colleges based on their treatment of their lowest paid employees. Robinson came last, with 58.7% of non-academic or administrative staff paid below £8.75 per hour, representing 128 employees. The College also had the joint-third lowest hourly wage, alongside Clare and Magdalene, at £7.38.

Over the past five years Labour have been working to boost the supply of affordable homes in Cambridge, with the City Council completing nearly 250 new council homes since 2014, and advancing plans to build an additional 535 council homes by 2022. The Council set up a Housing Company to purchase and manage ‘intermediate’ housing at submarket rents, and in the last three years has helped bring 100 empty homes back into use.

Councillor Anna Smith, executive councillor for communities and ward councillor for Romsey, said that Cambridge colleges should “follow the example of the University itself and pay all [their] staff at least the Real Living Wage of £9 an hour.

“When there is such a high demand in Romsey, and across Cambridge, for housing, it is simply unacceptable that potential homes have been lying empty for so long”. Smith “welcome[s] the assurances that these properties will be made available soon, and hope that Robinson chooses to rent them at an affordable rate to its lowest paid workers.” For Smith, “a world class university needs a world class attitude to its staff.”


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New ‘Living Wage league table’ ranks Cambridge colleges by treatment of their lowest-paid workers

The City Council have, as part of its vision of ‘One Cambridge Fair for All’, also invested in efforts to increase the number of employers that pay the Real Living Wage of £9 an hour as determined by the Living Wage Foundation. In 2018, the University of Cambridge sought accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation however this does not apply to individual colleges. At present, only Queens’ College is an accredited Living Wage employer.

Varsity has reached out to Robinson College for comment.

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