County council staff look set to find out this month whether they will get an in-year pay rise after the council’s leader said they would make a ‘final decision’ in October.
Workers have not seen their pay increased since 2017 and the issue of upping their wage has been one to dominate the County Hall chamber in meetings for the last 18 months.
The county council had pledged to give staff a pay increase during the current financial year if it could afford it but has yet to do so.
And the ongoing saga was raised again at a recent full council meeting on September 19 following a question from Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Chris Stanbra to the Conservative county council leader Matt Golby.
Asked whether any increase would be backdated to April 2019 if awarded, Councillor Golby responded: “We did make a commitment to consider an in-year pay award for 2019/20 on condition that we would be in a budget position to do so, such as having a balanced in-year budget and our improvement plan on target.
“We agreed to review this after quarter one, at which point the demands on our social care services meant the budget was not balanced, and we agreed to review this again after quarter two in October to make a final decision.”
He added: “The council does want to recognise the great work our employees do and is continuing to look at ways to do this in our challenging financial situation. We have made a provision in the developing plans for 2020/21 and are planning a large employee recognition event in November.”
But Councillor Stanbra criticised the leader’s response, saying it failed to answer his question about a backdate if such a rise was awarded.
He added: “If they’re going to back themselves into a corner then things don’t look too hopeful at the moment.
“But who knows, there’s still time and they may pull a rabbit out of a hat or Councillor Longley [cabinet member for finance] might have something up his sleeve that he’s not told us about.
“But it wouldn’t go down well at all if they can’t do it, especially as they have trouble recruiting at the moment and that certainly wouldn’t help.”
The county council has faced repeated calls from UNISON to award the increase, with the union creating a petition last month. And last November it submitted a claim on behalf of workers for a cost-of-living pay increase, in line with most other councils, and the return of pay increments to reflect increased skills over time.
Such calls have so far fallen on deaf ears, but branch secretary Kev Standishday said: “We can always hope can’t we? We do feel that they can afford it because they have managed to put some money into the reserves, and they can afford a £2million in-year payment for a two per cent pay increase.
“Each year we go without a pay rise it has an effect on our career average pensions. At some point, somebody has to bite the bullet and put us back on national terms and conditions.”
Current financial plans do show the county council awarding pay rises to staff for consecutive years from 2021 to 2023, but the county council will cease to exist from May 2021 as it will be replaced by two unitary authorities for the North and West of the county.