Portsmouth councillors brand unions' demands for council worker pay as 'completely unaffordable'

TOP CITY councillors have branded pay rise demands for council staff as 'completely unaffordable,' saying unions are risking cuts to services.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 5:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 4:09 pm
Unions have called for a 10 per cent pay rise for council staff.

Unions GMB, Unite and Unison said they will 'continue to fight' for a 10 per cent pay rise for council employees across the country, after being met by an offer of 2.75 per cent by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Unite local government officer, Jim Kennedy, believed it was 'especially' important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: 'This is a totally unrealistic offer, especially given the current crisis where it is our frontline local authority workers who are protecting our communities and vital services, caring for our young and our vulnerable elderly, collecting our rubbish, cleaning our streets, and working in our crematoria to ensure dignity for those who have, sadly, fallen victim to this terrible virus.'

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Councillor Luke Stubbs has said the 10 per cent increase would require a 21 per cent increase in council tax in Porsmouth to cover all costs. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180470-1)

Jon Richards, from Unison, agreed. He said: 'Although an increase on its previous offer of two per cent, it still falls well short of what’s both needed and deserved.'

But deputy Conservative leader for Portsmouth, Councillor Luke Stubbs, claimed the real cost to the council would mean a 21 per cent increase in council tax, which would require a referendum. 'If the unions think the public are with them then let’s have a vote. I know what I think the outcome would be,' he said.

'Council staff do a good job and like everyone they should be fairly compensated. Everyone would like to be paid more of course, but we need to be realistic and council employees know this – even if the unions do not.'

Portsmouth council leader and LGA member, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, added: 'This would be completely unaffordable. It would run lots of people who currently work at the council out of a job because the money isn't there.

'Our budget this year was based on an increase of two per cent so we will still have to make some adjustments to meet that extra 0.75 per cent.

'People are, and always have been, working really hard for the council and we appreciate that. If the government is willing to help us meet that 10 per cent increase then of course we would pay that.'

It comes after Portsmouth City Council agreed to keep paying its lowest paid workers the real living wage of £9.30 an hour.