The Long Read: Is £10 an hour too much to ask?

Connor McConville

On the 24th July the full council resolved and approved the following amended Labour motion put by Cllr Connor McConville (pictured), Leader of the Labour Group at district level:

  • That the Council ask the Personnel Committee to consider that a minimum of £10 per hour or £19,300 per annum be awarded to all permanent and temporary staff. Also that a fixed pay ratio be incorporated into the next pay policy statement.’

To put this into perspective the Head of Paid Service Dr Susan Priest would earn 6 times more than her lowest paid worker if the recommendation is accepted.

The proposal put forward as opposition business requesting £10 per hour for all permanent and temporary staff needs careful consideration so the Council say. They must look at the potential costs involved in implementing the request but also in terms of awareness to the potential legal implications. Were costings and legal implications taken into account when senior management received a substantial raise in June 2019?

During the debate it was Cllr Peter Gane (Con) who raised the issuing of costing any potential £10 minimum wage. That’s bookkeepers for you.  He was supported in his amendment by Cllr Rebecca Shoob (Green), chair of Overview & Scrutiny committee and a member on the Personnel Committee, who voted for the senior management rise in June.

The Council will very soon enter into pay negotiations with the staff side.

Cllr Connor McConville (Lab) motion of £10 per hour has unsurprising similarities to the pay claim lodged by the NJC trade unions (GMB, Unison and Unite) with the National Employers. The 2020 pay claim submitted on 24 July includes the following:

  • A real living wage of £10 per hour to be introduced for NJC spine point 1 and a 10% increase on all other NJC/GLPC pay points Further information relating to the national pay claim and considerations for Personnel Committee will be discussed in a later item on this agenda.

The cost of implementing £10 per hour

There are currently 4 staff in Grade A and 28 employees in Grade B. If the Personnel Committee took the decision to move these 32 staff to the equivalent of Grade C, this would mean an increase of £31,627 per annum to the salary budget (including on-costs).

Whilst this increase may seem relatively small when compared with the total salary budget of £12 million, it does not take account of temporary staff costs in Grades A and B as Grounds Maintenance have seasonal workers via local agencies during the peak period April – October each year. These workers are currently paid the National Minimum Wage (£8.21) via the agencies which means that the Council pays a higher hourly rate of approximately £12.30 to encompass statutory annual leave etc. Currently the cost to the Council is in the region of £300,000 per annum, however this would increase by £105,000 to £405,000.

In addition, over the course of the year the Council engages agency workers either on a temporary basis to cover for absence or on a temporary to permanent basis when recruiting to a vacancy. The costs do not form part of the Councils report.

To implement this decision would cost £136,627. There are approx 55,00 dwellings in the district who pay some form of Council Tax. This would add approximately £2.50 to any Council tax bill. Leader of the Council Cllr David Monk made clear during the debate, staff wages were mainly paid for by Council Tax. Let’s not forget, we already have the highest council tax of any of the 11 other councils in Kent. This has been so for the last sixteen years.

CT rates

It would be rude and unforgivable to forget earlier this year the Personnel Committee voted unanimously to award the senior mangement of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, an increase of up to £10,000 for eleven members of staff. This was to ensure that the Council is positioned to remain competitive in attracting and retaining talented officers now and in future years.

Aren’t the 32 Council Officers in Grade A & B “talented officers“? Surely they are, and as such, are worthy of a commensurable pay rise just like senior management.

In 1999, trade unions negotiated single status job evaluation for local government to avoid potential pay claims being taken to an employment tribunal. Single status was intended to establish whether jobs were of equal value. Jobs which had previously been classed as manual or administrative / clerical would be brought together under one pay scale and one set of terms and conditions.

If £10 per hour was implemented and employees in Grades A and B increased to Grade C, this would almost definitely raise challenges of equal pay the council believe.

The Council use the following example:

  • Should a gardener (Grade B) or park keeper be paid the same as a Revenues & Benefits Officer carrying out technical tasks in relation to council tax legislation or housing benefit claims (Grade C)? Or should a gardener (Grade B) be paid at the same grade as the Senior Gardener (Grade C)?

If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ then consideration would need to be given to the resulting effect of increasing all of the salaries across the council with £10 per hour being the lowest hourly rate. Whilst this is the basis of the national pay claim, the implication of re-evaluating every role with £10 per hour as the starting point could result in an increase to the salary budget in excess of £1 million or about £18 on your Council Tax.

Also it is necessary to bear in mind the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 which protects workers who are assigned to temporarily work for a third party through a temporary work agency. If the Council adopt a minimum £10 per hour rate then this would need to be applied to agency workers in addition to our employees.

The Council’s preferred option for the committee to consider is to Remove Grade A and move the staff occupying roles evaluated as Grade A to the bottom salary point of Grade B with no incremental progression available. The cost of this would be approximately £3,250 per annum. This option would mean that we should remain compliant with the National Living Wage (£8.21) increases for at least the next 4-5 years. If Personnel Committee were to adopt this option, it would also mean that the Council could choose to be formally accredited as a Living Wage employer by the Living Wage Foundation – there is however an annual cost associated to becoming accredited of £480 plus VAT.

Nicola Keen

If the Personnel Committee follow the recommendation it means 4 staff will be moved to B Grade, but none of the 32 in that group would receive £10 an hour. We understand that Cllr McConville would not be satisfied with this recommendation. Let’s not forget, his Labour colleague Councillor Nicola Keen (pictured), who sits on the Personnel Committee, did behind closed doors vote for the rise the senior management received in June.

Should these 32 staff  wages be raised to a minimum of £10 an hour? Is it asking too much given that there senior colleagues received a considerable rise in June and they are not the only “talented” officers, are they? Well leave you to decide that.

The Shepwayvox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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2 Comments on The Long Read: Is £10 an hour too much to ask?

  1. What about nsl staff on min wage doing councils dirty work

  2. doggerbank56 // September 2, 2019 at 16:28 // Reply

    The question is do our Councillors care about rewarding staff at the bottom of the pay scale as much as they enjoy rewarding senior Council officers.

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