No pay rise for staff, votes Northamptonshire County Council's ruling Conservative administration

Conservative councillors voted against giving county council staff a payrise.
Conservative councillors voted against giving county council staff a payrise.

Conservative county councillors have voted against giving a pay rise to council staff at this morning’s budget meeting.

The ruling administration knocked back an amendment by the Liberal Democrats to use the £2.1m the authority is proposing to put into a contingency for the 2019/20 financial year to give a two per cent pay rise to staff instead.

In a recorded vote all of the Conservatives councillors present, excepting Cllr Dudley Hughes who abstained, voted against the proposal which would have given the biggest pay rise to staff since before 2010. Every other councillor voted for the pay rise.

The authority is currently predicting a £1.4m overspend for the current financial year with three months to go. It has reduced the former £64.1m overspend it was facing in July in part from a special allowance by the Government which has allowed it to use £70m from capital receipts to cover last year’s multi-million-pound deficit.

Conservative leader Matt Golby repeated earlier statements that the pay rise may come at a later date if finances allow.

Lib Dems leader Chris Stanbra said: “I’m proposing an amendment to the administration’s budget proposal that would delete the contingency of £2.1m in the budget and replace it with a two per cent pay increase for staff commencing on April 1, 2019.

“Please, please, please do something tangible to show our staff that you support them.”

Union’s Alvaerz Wilkinson spoke at the meeting and said staff were now fed up and needed a pay rise.

The Labour opposition’s finance portfolio holder, Mick Scrimshaw, said: “Staff are the council’s greatest asset, and the leadership again and again publicly acknowledge this, and have made a commitment to increase staff pay “if it can be afforded” and hopefully this year.

“Why isn’t it in the budget? If you’re confident about this budget, and you say you are, then show that confidence actually means something by releasing money for the desperately needed staff pay rise.

“I’m not talking about the senior management and consultants sometimes on hundreds of pounds a day, but the hard working social workers, admin staff and others at the bottom of the pay grades who have effectively taken pay cuts for years.”

After the meeting Unison's assistant branch secretary Lorna Smith said: "We feel very sad and concerned about what is effectively a pay cut for staff. We’ve seen assurances broken before, for example on our incremental pay and the implementation of unpaid leave. Unison is also concerned that this inability to pay a wage rise in line with inflation gives a message that the budget set is not robust. It also gives a message to staff here and in other counties that this is still not a secure place to work, and a pay rise would have helped rebuild trust for staff and members of the public."

At the start of this week chief executive Theresa Grant told all staff their first day’s sick leave would now be paid.

The unions are still campaigning for a return to national pay and conditions, which were removed in 2013.