At a meeting of Full Council on Wednesday 1st December Bedford Borough Labour Group proposed a Motion calling upon the council to write to the Local Government Association and to the Chancellor and Secretary of State to call for a substantial pay increase for local government workers to be funded with new money from Central Government.
At the present time staff have been offered a 1.75% pay increase, which comes after more than a decade of pay freezes and below inflation pay awards that has left council workers 23% worse off than they were in 2010.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrat Group altered the Labour Group Motion with an amendment which removed the important specific requests about a substantial pay increase for council staff to be directly funded by Central Government and not at the expense of council services or local residents.
The Lib Dem amendment merely stated that “the Government must take responsibility and properly fund local government so that we can continue to provide quality services for our residents with properly resourced staffing.” Whilst the Labour Group does of course not disagree with that in principle, it changed the whole purpose of the motion which was about a staff pay increase.
Councillor Abu Sultan said:
“Of course we want proper funding for Council Services, but that is not what this Motion was about. Our Motion did not ask this council to fund a more substantial pay rise from its own depleted resources.”
“It did not ask local residents to fund a pay increase through an increase in Council Tax.”
“I am disappointed these amendments move the emphasis away from requesting a pay raise for council workers to be funded by Central Government, to instead concentrate on services provided and the problem with funding as a whole.”
“Tory Central Government found billions of pounds to fund a failed test & trace system, sub-standard PPE, and numerous other dodgy deals. I think it was reasonable to ask them to now find the money to directly fund a fair pay increase for local authority staff.”
Councillor Carl Meader, reacting to the amendment from Councillor Headley, said, “I find this amendment frustrating – the Labour Group Motion was a simple one – to support a claim for a substantial pay increase for all employees that fall under the NJC pay grades. This amendment at best confuses the issue and at worst undermines employees within our local authority.”
Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver said;
“We have all praised staff for their dedication and determination in carrying out their duties. Teams throughout every council department have soldiered on, despite a lack of a fair pay award for so many years now. A substantially increased pay offer would surely make present staff feel valued and make working for the local authority a more attractive proposition, ensuring we have the best workers to provide the best services possible now and in the future.”
The vote was held and the heavily amended version of the Motion was passed.
Martin Foster, GMB Beds County Branch Secretary commented: “GMB are bitterly disappointed at the decision by Bedford Borough Council to vote in favour of the Liberal Democrats amendment to the Labour Party motion on local government pay. This amendment does nothing more than water down the main objective in the motion which was to call on the Government to fully fund a decent substantial pay award for our members working in local government. Although there was plenty of praise for our members’ commitment and tireless work during and ongoing through this pandemic, the fact of the matter is, when push came to shove many councillors were lacking in support for their staff when it was most needed.”
Kiran Mal, Branch Secretary of Bedford Borough Unison Branch, commented: “UNISON is extremely disappointed that the Labour Group motion on local government pay was not supported by the majority of councillors at the Full Council meeting today. Bedford Borough Council staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often putting themselves and their loved ones at risk to provide the essential services to the community, and yet Central Government have failed to provide a fair pay rise to Local Government workers, offering just 1.75%* in the face of inflation running at 4.2% and on top of years of austerity. UNISON is currently balloting members on the NJC pay offer and we are calling on members to reject unfair pay.”