A move to reduce the gender pay gap within Surrey County Council was blocked after a heated debate over women in work.

Labour’s Cllr Robert Evans put forward a motion to full council on Tuesday for more measures and solutions to addressing the 14.7 per cent pay gap between male and female council workers.

“Unequal pay is often the result of unequal opportunities, and as employees, Surrey must play its part to try and find a solution,” Cllr Evans said.

He wanted SCC to “adopt measures that will attempt to address this differential gap in the future”.

His calls were backed by Cllr Jonathan Essex who said: “This motion calls to address the pay gap in the future and highlight there is still an opportunity for the future.”

He said it was about addressing the reality that there was “lower pay for those employed in some areas than others such as the three c’s – care, cleaning and catering” and that the council should recognise these are “just as vital roles” as others in society.

Often carried out by women, he argued if there was more value placed on these roles then that may reduce the gender pay gap.

He said: “Why should the head and the hand always seem to pay more than the heart? Why are the caring professionals undervalued not just by this council but by the rest of the society?”

Equal pay relates to men and women receiving equal pay for equal work.  

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average pay of all men and all women working for an organisation.

All employees of more than 250 people must reveal their gender pay gaps. Other companies in Surrey averaged at 17.7% with SCC’s gap being 14.7%.

Cllr Evans said he was not suggesting people in the council were being paid less because they are women, but that the opportunities for women were different.

He added: “The whole principle of this is that the average pay of women is lower because the jobs that they are allocated or able to apply for are the lower paid ones.”

His comments were met with jeers from the council chamber and council leader David Hodge replying: “It’s absolutely clear women and men can apply for any job at Surrey County

Council. We do not differentiate between male and female.”