Cambridgeshire County Councillors accused of ‘hypocrisy’ over increase to allowances

Cambs County Council leader Councillor Steve Count
Cambs County Council leader Councillor Steve Count

Councillors at Cambridgeshire County Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council have been accused of hypocrisy after awarding themselves an inflation busting pay rise.

UNISON regional secretary, Chris Jenkinson, condemned the 25 per cent uplift agreed by East Cambs councillors last week and a 30 per cent rise for Cambs councillors this week, saying: “Town hall staff will simply not understand it when they hear government ministers calling for wage restraint while at the same time local political leaders are lining their own pockets with eye watering pay rises. This behaviour smacks of hypocrisy.”

The pay of local government staff was frozen for two years after the global economic crash in 2008 and has since been capped at a maximum of 1% per year. With prices in the shops rising, the wage cap has seen the value of council pay drop by 21 per cent since 2009.

Mr Jenkinson said “Councillors have an important job in their communities, and are entitled to claim allowances in recognition of the disruption public duties can cause to their lives. But they also need to recognise their responsibilities as leaders in the community and inside the council. I am calling on councillors to think again, recognise the devastating impact this decision will have on staff morale, set the decision to one side and join us campaigning for fair funding and an end to the public sector pay cap.’

UNISON has already submitted a five per cent pay claim for their local government members which also includes an uplift in the minimum wage to £8.45 per hour for the lowest paid staff. The union is still waiting for the employers’ representatives to respond.

UNISON is planning a summer of campaign activity to oppose the government’s pay policy and has refused to rule out council staff taking action in support of the pay claim unless they get a fair settlement.

Cambs council leader Councillor Steve Count defended the decision to increase members’ allowances by 30 per cent saying the “numbers were not as clear cut as they appeared”.

And he argued that the county’s councillors had the lowest pay of any similar authority in the country making the rise necessary to bring them in line with the national average.