Low-paid council workers could miss out on pay pledge

25 Jun 10
Almost 1 million low-paid local government workers could miss out on promised pay increases over the next two years, Public Finance understands
By Jaimie Kaffash

28 June 2010

Almost 1 million low-paid local government workers could miss out on promised pay increases over the next two years, Public Finance understands.

The Budget confirmed that a two-year public sector pay freeze would be imposed from 2011/12. But Chancellor George Osborne said the 1.7 million workers earning £21,000 or less would receive a pay hike of £250 in each of the two years of the freeze.

The Treasury subsequently confirmed to PF that this did include local government workers, although their salaries cannot be determined by Whitehall.

A spokeswoman said: ‘The government expects them [local government employers] to exercise similar restraint.’

She added that grants to local authorities would be ‘adjusted accordingly’ to reflect the pay freeze on other staff.

All local government salaries are being frozen this year and trade unions are worried that local authorities will not honour the £250 pay rise for those on the lowest incomes next year.

Brian Strutton, the GMB union’s public services national secretary, told PF the inclusion of council workers ‘gives us a platform to negotiate at least a £250 rise for the million or so lowest paid’.  

But he added: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if local government employers don’t try to wriggle their way out of paying up, but they’ll have a furious backlash if they do.’

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, said Osborne’s directive, alongside the freeze on council tax, undermined the government’s commitment to localism.

A spokesman for Local Government Employers said it would review next year’s pay settlement at the appropriate time.

This comes in the same week that Incomes Data Services warned that the gap between public and private sector pay awards had widened.

The analysts said that 40% of pay settlements in the public sector this year had been pay freezes, even ahead of the 2011 settlement. This compares with 10% of pay deals in the private sector.    

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