Another big sign that the Conservatives are serious about localism comes in a report in The Times this morning about some Conservative Councils intending to have local pay negotiations in future. One possibility is that London Councils pull out to negotiate a London wide deal. Impetus to pull out of national negotiations has been a proposed deal to increase pay of 1.6 million local government workers next year by 1%. This would cost £240 million. Conservative Councils in the Local Government Association proposed a pay freeze. But they have been outvoted by the Labour and Lib Dem Councils to approve a 1% increase. The Conservatives control 210 councils – more than half. Yet we are in a minority on the Joint Negotiating Council.
The Times reports:
"George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, has already warned that an incoming Tory administration is likely to review “inflexible” public sector pay deals. He has also said that unions such as Unison, which represents most council workers, have grown “too powerful”. With the private sector imposing freezes and pay cuts as the recession continues, Tory town hall leaders argue that public-sector salaries cannot be protected.
Conservative town hall employers told The Times that “a zero rise” for workers next year would be the “maximum” that Tory councils would support.
The Conservative Group of the Local Government Employers was furious two weeks ago when Labour and the Liberal Democrats pushed through the 1 per cent pay average rise for town hall workers this year.
The rise is double the 0.5 per cent increase first agreed as a “compromise” by Tory representatives, who had been demanding a freeze. But unions rejected the original offer — lower than many other public-sector workers — forcing employers to raise their bid. Unison and other public sector unions are still consulting on the raised award.
But many Tory authorities, including the West Midlands group led by Birmingham City Council, are demanding the pay deal is lowered. They are also determined to force a change to the national negotiating structure to give them a majority vote next year."
I suppose looking on the bright side this mess may "speed up the crisis" (to borrow from Marxist dialectical theory.) In other words it may prompt Tory Councils to localise pay negotiations on pragmatic grounds – something they should already be favouring on grounds of principle.
For local government pay to be determined nationally is in any event a contradiction in terms. The involvement of unelected Acas officials in London, or reps from other Councils via the LGA, determining what the right amount is for your local council to be paying to their staff scarcely seems a very democratic approach. If you feel council workers are paid too little shouldn't it be up to you to elect councillors pledged to pay them more?
The point of local government is to provide services to residents. It is not a job creations scheme. True, many of the workers are on low incomes – but not as low as many of the council taxpayers, including millions of pensioners, who will face a hike in their bills that they can ill afford because of whim of the quangocrat negotiators.
If the unions want their members to be paid more then let them agree to performance related pay and cease the cant of "all our members do a wonderful job". Those who do a good job should be paid more and it would be easier to find money in the budget for this if the unions did not resist sacking those who do a terrible job – such as the ones who invariably find they happen to be sick on Fridays and Mondays.