St Helens Council calls on government to fund 10 per cent pay rise to staff

St Helens Council leader David Baines said the local authority cannot afford to fund the pay increase on its own without cutting essential services
St Helens Council leader David Baines said the local authority cannot afford to fund the pay increase on its own without cutting essential services

St Helens Council has called on central government to fund a 10 per cent pay rise for all of its staff.

The council is the largest employer in St Helens, employing more than 7,500 people.

Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 they have received from central government.

As a result, the local government workforce has endured years of pay restraint with the majority of pay points losing 22 per cent of their value since 2009-10.

In July, the UK’s three largest local government unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, submitted a pay claim for public sector workers that attempts to reverse the real terms’ pay cuts suffered by local authority staff since 2010.

Between them, the three unions represent 1.4 million employees in schools and councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The proposals, which is for 2020-21, seeks a minimum wage of £10 per hour and a 10 per cent pay rise for all other council employees.

Last week, a motion backing the pay claim submitted by Labour’s Martin Bond, cabinet member for finance, was debated by St Helens Council.

Coun Bond called local government workers “superheroes”, adding that the manner which they’ve been treated since 2010 has been “disgraceful”.

Coun Bond slammed former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Danny Alexander, saying they “set fire” to their manifesto promises and were “complicit” in public sector workers bearing the brunt of “politically-driven austerity”.

Coun Bond said: “The free market zealots with their private sector good, public sector bad mantra denigrated public sector workers.

“Lies were told about gold-plated pensions, hammering hard-working public servants across the country with pay freezes, for those who hadn’t been caught by the swinging job losses.”

Across the UK, an estimated 876,000 jobs have been lost in local government since June 2010 – a reduction of 30 per cent.

Coun Bond said the job losses were forced on local authorities by the Conservative MP and former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, who he accused of “rinsing as much money out of local government as possible”.

“That’s nearly a million people,” Coun Bond said.

“I’m sure some Conservatives are proud of that. I’m not sure the Liberal Democrats will want that repeating too much though.

“Those jobs aren’t just a number, they’re real people, real families. This is a Lib Dem-Tory legacy that is nothing to be proud of.”

Coun Bond said local authority workers who have not felt the “cruel, compassionate wrath of Eric Pickles” have suffered pay cuts of 22 per cent.

He said the remaining staff have had “extra burdens” placed on them as a result of the job cuts, and have had to “plug gaps”.

Coun Bond said this is a clear example of “diminishing resources set against increasing demand”.

There has also been a disproportionate impact on women, with women making up more than three quarters of the local government workforce.

Labour’s Michelle Sweeney said public sector workers are the “life-blood” of towns and communities across the country.

She said the brunt public servants have born since 2010, as a direct result of the “coalition of chaos”, has been “horrendous”.

St Helens Council leader David Baines said the local authority cannot afford to fund the pay increase on its own without cutting essential services.

Coun Baines said: “Most people don’t realise but the council is actually the largest employer in the borough. We’ve lost almost 2,000 staff since 2010 but we are still the largest employer.

“I fully support this motion. As it states, we haven’t got the money to give our staff the pay rise they deserves without cutting essential services.”

The Labour leader made a direct plea to central government, whoever is in charge following the expected December 12 election, to give staff the pay rise they “so rightfully deserve.”

After councillors unanimously backed the motion, the council will now write to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities to call for a government-funded pay increase for local government workers.

Representatives of the council will also meet with local NJC union representatives to convey support for the unions’ pay claim.