OPINION

A pandemic pay rise for council officers would hit our residents hard

Posted On 13 Feb 2021 at 12:05 am

Labour and the Greens’ proposal for a pay rise for council officers would hit frontline services hard and come at a cost to residents in the city while also increasing the pay inequality.

Labour and Green councillors put forward the proposal at a pre-budget meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee.

The move would cost £2.4 million to Brighton and Hove City Council’s budget if permitted, a sum which a council finance report states would have to be found by cuts to frontline services.

Is a pay rise for council executives the right policy for our city right now?

Our council is already facing a £10.4 million budget deficit which will have to be addressed when setting budget later this month.

This is largely down to poor financial management by Labour and the Greens in running the council over the past 12 months, including a series of major ideological policy blunders.

The pay freeze for council officers was a one-year measure only across the country to help get through the pandemic so we can support essential services with a return to normal pay rises for council staff next year.

These savings had already been factored in by the council’s finance officers and brought the projected deficit down to the level it is at – £10.4 million.

Labour and the Greens’ vote to reverse this measure is highly irresponsible and would add to the budget deficit, requiring cuts elsewhere that would hit residents hard. This would be unconscionable.

While staff are highly valued, it is the wrong time to be awarding council pay rises given the impact on our residents.

Many council staff are paid fairly well and the impact of this measure would be that the services we provide would be cut as a result. This would hit vulnerable residents who rely on them throughout the city.

In addition, it is worth noting that this pay policy would serve to increase pay inequality at the council.

A fixed 2.2 per cent pay rise across the board, for example, would increase the pay gap between the highest and lowest paid council workers by £2,300. How is that fair? Have they really thought this through?

Labour and the Greens are not prioritising residents’ needs during the pandemic nor the needs of our lower-paid staff.

It’s time for Labour and the Greens to get their priorities right. Services come first and council officer pay increases must take a back seat this year.

Councillor Steve Bell is the leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Hove Guy Reply

    A pay rise for total incompetence! What an insult to local residents. They should be kicked out as soon as possible.

  2. Julian Wadey Reply

    Bell has done a good job under painful circumstances thus far, I think he has made a fair point…pay rises at this juncture NO

  3. Julian Wadey Reply

    Bell has done a good job under painful circumstances thus far, I think he has made a fair point…pay rises at this juncture NO

  4. M8form8 Reply

    I am afraid I do not see any evidence to support a pay rise based on the atrocious mess our city is in down to incompetence. I pay far too much council tax as it is, I do not mind if it is helping people but I object if it is going to over paid so called executives. Local authority management is vastly over paid.

  5. Jenny Mulligan Reply

    Meanwhile Cllr Bell’s MP wife (Maria Caulfield, Lewes) voted for a £2k a year pay rise for MPs, despite 10 years of austerity hitting the poorest in society and the budgets of frontline services.

    Hypocrite.

    • Andy Richards Reply

      Virtually no council staff are getting a pay rise. This is for a very select few at the top. Most council staff are likely to face a pay *freeze*, and the Council has in fact made no budgetary provision for a pay award at all.

  6. Rolivan Reply

    Over the last 10 years all we have heard about is cuts and yet when the Budget comes around a large sum of money appears from The Councils Reserves.The Council is very rich and until somebody proves elsewise then I will not believe them.Why would they take away Parking Revenue if they didn’t have the funds to cover the ‘Loss’.Over this period money could have been spent on The Terraces which would create income streams but hey ho they would rather just spend.

  7. BAHTAG Reply

    Rolivan’s closing sentence above: “… they just want to spend.”
    hints at more than he/she has actually written!

    The epithet of Labour being a ‘Tax and Spend’is well-established.

    However Rolivan (obviously a close observer of our City Council) will probably recognise that the B&H Green group have shown themselves to be Party deserving of a different epithet: ‘Spend, and don’t worry where the money’s coming

    from!’.

    So let’s remind ourselves:

    1. Ever since Pete West was the Greens first councillor their Group has been bleating about wanting to be paid a full salary (probably 3x the current basic Councillor’s allowance!).

    Sorry guys – it’s obvious that no working-age councillor should be paid more by us taxpayers, if at all?) than the televant Job Seeker’s paid to benefits claimants under Universal Credit?

    2. Then the financial & aesthetic disaster of the i360!
    Not just the £40m+ debt that City taxpayers have already started to fund!

    But it’s not just those loans to the i360 – it’s also the millions more of our money spent on upgrading the surrounding public realm to support the i360.

    Worst of all was probably the millions spent by our Council on reinforcing the Upper Promenade to literally support 44-ton trucks delivering to the project. And that secret purpose on the ludicrous proposition that the strengthening of the Promenade was needed in case the sea might reach the A259!

    Yes, it might – in about 200 years, if global warming hasn’t been halted by then, but other parts of the sea-front are much closer to the A259, so are likely be washed-away with a major rise in sea-levels well before that part of the A259 by the West Pier!

    And heavy trucks needing to deliver to the project?

    Simples, there was already a temporary access road along the beach. So if it needed strengthening for 44-ton trucks the i360 should have paid for that?

    But there’s more – if the Upper Promenade really needed strengthening (to take vehicles in addition to pedestrians?) then the quick & much cheaper solution would be to line the interior of the dilapidated arches with reinforced-concrete (which might be standard segments used for tunnel linings elsewhere?).

    And the frontage of the Arches? Just needing to be bricked-up in a neat way, because of there probably being too little height inside the concrete lining.

    But what did we get? A true masterpiece of the bricklayer’s craft, with the added expense of specially shaped bricks.
    Beautiful, agreed, but not at such a high price. That expense would have been better spent on building council houses instead, given our City’s desperate shortage of rented social housing.

    3. Then another Green scandal is that of their handing some 499 council dwellings to a subsidiary called ‘Brighton & Hove Seaside Community Homes’ of which a Councillor from each Party is a Trustee/Director).

    At present we’re only seeing the tip of a very dirty iceberg, representing a multiple whammy for taxpayers:

    – The long-lease transfer to that entity was for only about 1/3rd of market value!

    – Many Council tenants need taxpayer-funded Housing Benefit to pay their rent, which for a 1-bed home was around £60-£70 per week.

    But the same transferred 1-bed homes now attract HB of about £150 pw! So another grab from taxpayers pockets!

    And that doubled amount
    only for an insecure shorthold tenancy, instead of their previous secure tenancies as council houses!

    – And initially the transfer was only to be for homes so dilapidated that our Council considered them to be worth nothing (and so Seaside could borrow money from Banco Santander to renovate them). But in our City even a plot with a house crumbling away still has a significant land-value as a site for building a replacement house!

    – And what of that plan?
    Well, with the benefit of records now in the public domain (but kept secret by the Council at transfer time!) it’s become clear that many of the homes were not wrecks at all. They were perfectly normal Council flats pepper-potted among equally normal blocks of Council flats!
    Thus robbing them from those patiently waiting their turn on the massive waiting-list for secure rented social housing!

    – But there’s worse to come:
    the multi-million pound deal with Santander apparently means that it’s not Seaside who carries the rent loss from their homes when awaiting a new tenant, or empty for any other reason.
    Once again it’s us muppets of taxpayers who foot that bill!
    And then there’s apparently an escalator clause, whereby Santander gets more money as rents increase. But rents cannot be increased much because Housing Benefit has hardly increased (and only those eligible for HB by virtue of being unable to earn can be & remain as Seaside tenants).
    Thus yet again the notional/fictional/artificial inflation of the Seaside rents, above HB increases, has to paid for by us taxpayers, whilst the bank’s profits flow down to Spain in ever-increasing amounts!

    And what of Labour’s spendthrift/money-wasting decisions for our City?

    Far too many to list here today, but let’s take a recent example:
    That new block of Council flats on the west side of Lewes Rd, at Selsfield Drive.
    Recently advertised to those on the waiting-list, but at a rent + council-tax + service charges of over £200 per week for a 1-bed flat. Affordable to a tenant only able to earn minimum wage, or even on a zero-hours contract?
    Especially when most existing 1-bed council flats rent for £80-£90 pw!

    And why so dear? Because whilst Labour’s policy of building more council housing is laudable in itself the eye-watering new-build costs incurred are certainly not!

    As it happens the official Homes England quango maintains a index of prices for completed new-build rented social housing in SE England. So the average all-in price for a 1-bed home is under £100k.

    But BHCC’s new-builds cost 2 to 3 times that price! Albeit the final total cost a completed new-builds is rarely, if ever,reported by officers back to the Housing Committee!

    Fortunately the Conservative councillors (with 3 RICS professionals in their ranks) had been challenging this gross over-spending, but regrettably their efforts seem to be waning (because comfortably-off Tories can’t (or won’t?) really understand the stress suffered by those on a low-income and/or those reliant on meagre benefits because of not being able to earn, it seems?

    And although the City’s in a severe housing-crisis the free-spending Greens seem willing to build at any price – even when not financially justified. And Labour also has an uncosted manifesto pledge to meet for new Council homes!

    Do Green and Labour not realise that by building at the Gov’t’s established cost levels for SE England (under £2k per square metre of floor space, rather than the £5k per sq.m which our Council spends, all-in except for no land-cost) we could afford to build more than double the number of homes for the same money?

    Cock-up or conspiracy?
    Probably both, and possibly corruption as well?

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