The leader and chief executive have pledged to give Northamptonshire County Council staff a pay rise if they can afford it - but union members have questioned why a £2million contingency saving isn’t being used for that purpose.
Matt Golby and Theresa Grant re-affirmed the pledge to reward hard-working staff at the authority if they manage to deliver their in-year savings.
But Kev Standish-Day, the UNISON branch secretary, said employees were ‘fed up’ that little money was going to ordinary staff members, and asked why the £2million was being put into reserves instead of towards staff. Unions have not ruled out industrial action over the pay freeze.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting this morning, Mr Standish-Day said: “How can you still justify not rewarding employees a pay rise when there’s £2million there?
“You’ve been announcing that balancing the budget is a great success, but you’ve neglected to say that this is in part being paid for by staff, who have had no pay rise this year, have no incremental pay progression and are going way over their hours and grade to cover vacancies with drastically reduced teams.
“Your employees are fed up of reading about large pay-offs for senior managers who have failed, they’re fed up about hundreds of thousands of pounds being found for external audits and transformation managers. They’re fed up of very little going to front-line employees.
“We were told that £87,000 was shared between the 100 highest-earning employees, and there was £100,000 between the whole rest of the staff group. It seems the senior managers receive significant reward for their extra work, but not so much the ordinary employees.
“They also keep reading about new senior managers being employed and they wonder where this money magically appears from.”
Chief executive Theresa Grant said that she ‘didn’t disagree with much’ of what Mr Standish-Day had raised, but that they had budgeted for the pay rise.
She said: “We have a contingency in the budget and nothing would give me greater pleasure than using that contingency to give staff a pay rise.
“What I will say to staff on Monday is that once we get into this year’s budget delivery, if I find that we are managing to deliver that budget in a safe way, that will be released for a pay rise. And that could be mid-year, it could be early in the year or later, and if we can do that we’ll backdate that pay rise as well. We are all committed to recognising the staff for their effort over the last few years.”
Her comments were echoed by leader Matt Golby, who added: “Our commitment remains the same as when we spoke a while back, in that if we can afford to give staff a pay rise then we will do.”
During the meeting Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra asked whether the pay rise had been included in earlier versions of the budget, but removed and converted into the contingency saving. He said the two figures were ‘almost to a penny’ the same for a two per cent pay rise for staff.
The question wasn’t answered during the cabinet meeting, but asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting to address Councillor Stanbra’s comments, Councillor Golby said: “I don’t think it was originally in there, but it’s in there now and reflected as a contingency.
“When you put a budget together of the enormity of the one we’ve just spoken through now, it’s very complicated and complex and there are lines that were in the original draft budget that have been changed, or some have been taken out because we’ve put them through tests for their robustness.
“Of course on our list of priorities, one of the top ones would be making sure that we repay staff for standing by us. We want to look to honour that commitment. “
Speaking after the meeting Kev-Standish Day said: “Staff in Northamptonshire have been told that they will not have a cost of living pay rise whilst there is a continuing crisis in the retention and recruitment of staff. Staff pay is seen as an optional extra by this council. This council talks of balancing their budget but they seem to forget the debt they owe to staff who have had no pay rise since 2017.”