Mark Whitehead 29 July 2019

In a nutshell: the 2020-21 local government pay claim

The claim put to the employers' side of the National joint Committee for Local Government Services, agreed by the three main unions, Unison, Unite and the GMB, covers around 1.4 million employees throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The claim is for a settlement due to take effect when the current two-year deal expires on 1 April 2020.

The unions argue that local government workers have delivered efficiency savings year-on-year against huge pressure and that the claim must not be funded by cutting conditions. They say paying local government staff properly is an investment in local services and the economy.

Main points

• A 'real living wage' of £10 per hour for the lowest-paid spinal column point (SCP) 1 and a 10% increase on all other pay points
• A one-day increase in paid annual leave
• A two-hour cut in the working week
• A joint review of workplace causes of stress and mental health problems

The context

• Councils have suffered nearly 50% cuts in central government funding since 2010
• Many face running out of money
• The Government says austerity is over and most people want more spent on public services

Economic background

• Inflation is expected to rise by up to 3% annually, meaning the cost of living going up more than 15% in the next four years
• Most employees have suffered 21.8% pay cuts in real terms since 2010
• Those on SCP 11, the most populated by headcount, have need a 26.6% rise to catch up

Low pay

• Pay in local government is among the lowest in the public sector
• A £10 an hour minimum would cut the need for topping up low pay through tax credits
• It would anticipate the introduction of a higher legal minimum wage
• Differentials would be protected by a 10% rise for other grades

Pay-related conditions

• Councils have cut working conditions such as unsocial hours, overtime and car allowances
• 50% of the workforce are part-time, working regular unpaid overtime
• Local government workers are more likely to work unpaid overtime than in other sectors
• Sickness caused by work-related stress, depression or anxiety is more than twice as high as the average

Job losses

• A third of jobs – 876,000 – have been lost since 2010
• There has been no decrease in statutory functions, but demand for services has often increased

Recruitment and retention

• More than three quarters of councils are facing problems recruiting and retaining staff
• 8% vacancy rate is higher than the average for wider public sector and the economy as a whole
• Councils spent £335m on agency social workers in 2017/18

Morale under threat

• In a union survey 83% said budget cuts have had an impact on their ability to do their job
• 89% said budget cuts had a negative impact on staff morale
• 54% said their workload is unmanageable
• Another survey found only 11% of members rated morale as good or excellent – more than half said it was bad or terrible

Equality impact

• Local government workers are much more likely to be female and more likely to be older than in other sectors
• Cuts to real pay, terms and conditions and employment totals have had a disproportionate impact on workers who share protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act

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