No pay rise for Northamptonshire council staff as finances not on track

Chief executive Theresa Grant has told staff they will not be getting a pay rise (as previously suggested).
Chief executive Theresa Grant has told staff they will not be getting a pay rise (as previously suggested).

Staff at Northamptonshire County Council have been told today they will not be getting their long-awaited pay rise because there is not enough money in the pot.

Chief executive Theresa Grant has emailed all staff to say that the pay rise, which was hinted could be coming this month, will now not appear because the council is not on track to balance its budget next year.

The authority has to make a further £43m of savings this year and is already reporting a £6m overspend in adult social services.

Unison, which represents a large number of staff, said of the news ‘again and again staff are having to pay for the county council’s failings’.

The cost of the pay rise is estimated to be about £2m, a sum which the council at one point had in contingency.

The latest budget report is expected to be announced shortly.

In an email to staff Theresa Grant said the decision will be reviewed again in September.

She said: “The unprecedented financial challenges the council has been through in the last two years has of course had a direct impact on pay awards and performance increments. I have made a commitment to work on the budget, with your directors, cabinet and the commissioners to ensure future pay increases are properly considered.

“I did this by making a direct provision in the 20/21 budget for a cost of living pay award. We also made for some hopefully welcome concessions – removing the sickness pay deductions for days off and additional Christmas leave – and retained the possibility of a pay award from April 2019.

“We all did an excellent job in recovering last year’s budget but our challenge remains high with £42m worth of savings to be delivered this year.

“This year’s pay award was a possibility, not a certainty, because our financial position is still being stabilised. We have had to pause a decision with regard to pay and put in place two tests and conditions for a potential rise. Firstly if our Improvement Plan was on track financially, and secondly if the first quarter of the financial year 19/20 (so April, May and June) were also on track.

“The budget report says that we are progressing these savings but have more work to do and states that without further work we may not achieve our balanced budget in April next year. This is not unusual in the first quarter of a financial year but presents us all with a risk that needs to be managed.

“As we come into July, looking at the end of May budget position, it is unlikely that we can say that the second test is met and without further work is unlikely to be at this stage. I therefore have to be honest with you and say that in July we will not be in a position to make a pay offer.

“I am proposing that this is not a final decision for 19/20 and I would like to hold on to make a final decision with cabinet and commissioners in September.

“I do appreciate that this is not the news you would have liked this month but I want to give you the position as it stands today. Your leadership team remain committed to recognising and rewarding your commitment and achievements to our customers and citizens.”

Unison branch secretary Kev Standishday said: “We are really disappointed with this announcement as staff have now gone two years with no pay rise. They are having to pay the five per cent extra council tax and on top of that, if they work at Angel Square they are paying £7 a day to park and have had no cost of living rise since before 2013 when employees were removed from national terms and conditions as a cost-cutting exercise.

“We believe that when setting a budget one of the first concerns should be staff pay because without a fairly remunerated and settled workforce the services they provide to the county residents cannot be run efficiently and consequently the necessary budget savings will not be made.

“It appears that staff pay is last on this council’s list of priorities. Again and again the staff are being forced to pay for the failings of the council. The continuing commitment from staff is amazing considering the way they have been treated. Our members deserve better than this and we will be getting their views on this and any action they might want to take.”