‘Disgraceful’ actions

Unite outrage as local authorities’ key workers’ ‘lives are at risk’ – as funding wars continue in England and Scotland

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There’s no doubt that local authority workers are finding life tough right now – with little or no recognition for putting their safety at risk in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unite Scotland over the past weekend (May 30) has strongly criticised the Scottish government over the continued delay in releasing the additional Covid-19 emergency finance to local authorities, stating that ‘lives are being put at risk’.

The finance secretary Kate Forbes told the Scottish parliament on May 5 that costed plans must be submitted in advance before the funds are released, unlike in England where the finance has been non ring-fenced.

In response, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) issued a statement placing the estimated impact at £250m. But to date Scottish local authorities have still not received the cash despite this cost estimate.

The UK government made £1.6bn of funding available to councils in England on April 18, which amounted to an additional £155m flowing from Barnett formula consequentials.

This was an extra £1.6bn taking the total given to local authorities in England to over £3.2bn – the equivalent to £310m for Scotland.

“The Scottish government are behaving disgracefully in their refusal to release the emergency Covid-19 funds that have been allocated by Westminster,” commented Unite regional officer, Wendy Dunsmore.

“It’s absolutely staggering that instead of the sums being passed on immediately as in England, local authorities in Scotland are continuing to face obstacles six weeks down the line.

“There’s absolutely no excuses for this unacceptable situation when lives are at risk and this money could be immediately assisting vulnerable people, and communities,” she added.

Extra-payment ditched

Meanwhile in England, it’s not all plain sailing for our hard working members either – especially when it comes to well-earned bonus payments.

MJ magazine reports that the Local Government Association (LGA) is split on party lines over bonuses for workers.

According to The MJ, a cross-party agreement that the Local Government Association (LGA) would lobby for a coronavirus payment to local authority staff was ditched after senior councillors blocked the move.

Members of the LGA’s cross-party resources board had previously agreed to lobby the government for more cash to provide ‘special payments to staff as a result of Covid-19’.

Despite the recommendation, Conservative and Lib Dem members of the executive advisory board are understood to have spoken out against the LGA calling for a one-off consolidated payment of up to £500, which would cost more than £320m.

In Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford has already announced that care workers will receive a £500 payment in recognition of their work during the pandemic. In Scotland social care staff recently received a 3.3 per cent pay increase – above the current 2.75 per cent pay offer in England.

Unite was deeply concerned following the decision – calling the move ‘a disgrace’ and adding that the undervalued essential workforce – battling in the Covid-19 front line – had been dealt a further blow.

“The collateral damage of another horrendous blue and yellow coalition is the low paid, continually undervalued essential workforce,” commented Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for local authorities.

“Even now while local government workers are in the front line battling against Covid-19 these pitiful excuses for local government representation, no doubt from their comfortable offices or homes, decide to inflict another blow on a workforce that the public properly recognise are supporting our communities and sustaining our society.

“The recent pay offer, that equates to £1.83 a day for the lowest paid was already insulting enough, but the actions of the Conservatives and Lib Dems in local government to block an additional payment is a disgrace. Shame on them,” Kennedy added.

Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite 

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