Council workers face third year of pay freeze

23 Feb 12
Council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year.

By Vivienne Russell | 23 February 2012

Council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year.

Local government employers today responded to union demands for a ‘substantial’ pay increase by announcing that salaries would again be held down in 2012/13. This was to help protect frontline service and reduce further job losses, employers said.

Sarah Messenger, head of workforce at the Local Government Association, said the decision had been a ‘very difficult’ one to make.

‘A combination of rising costs and shrinking local government funding means councils were left with little choice. Increasing pay would mean more job losses and cuts to the services people need.’

Messenger added that employers recognised the ‘frustration’ council employees would feel, but added: ‘While the financial outlook for councils is bleak, we are keen to begin discussions with the unions on a package of reform of pay and conditions that may enable us to avoid a fourth year of pay freeze in 2013.’

Unions responded angrily to the announcement. Peter Allenson, Unite’s national officer for local government, said: ‘Starving the wages of local government employees is self-defeating, as they spend money in their local economies.

‘Council staff need a substantial pay increase this year. Unite will be meeting its activists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and fully supports its members in any action they are prepared to take for pay justice.’

For Unison, local government head Heather Wakefield said a third pay freeze was a ‘disgrace’ and would tip more low-paid council workers into poverty.

Commenting on Chancellor George Osborne’s June 2010 pledge to give the lowest-paid workers a £250 rise during the pay freeze period, she said this had not happened. ‘Not even the lowest paid in local government will get the £250 increase the chancellor promised them – they didn’t get it last year either. Families can no longer cope.

‘This cannot go on – councils do have other choices, such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves. The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid.’

Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary, said the pay freeze was not an austerity measure but a ‘political choice by local government politicians who want to win votes by keeping pay at poverty levels to fund council tax freezes’.

Yesterday, Unisonpublished research showed that council pay had fallen by 13% in real terms over the last three years.


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