Union says Northamptonshire County Council workers liken budget slashes to standing on a cliff edge

The article below was published on Thursday 1st March on the Northampton Chronicle & Echo website.  You can view the original article here.

A trade union has slammed Northamptonshire County Council after they claim they were told about the staff pay freeze minutes before the local authority made an official announcement.

Trade union, GMB has condemned Northamptonshire County Council’s budget announcement, which will slash £40 million from rural bus routes, Trading Standards, highway Maintenance and the closure of 21 libraries.

A spokeswoman for the GMB said: “GMB members have reacted with horror and dismay to the latest round of cuts in the council’s budget, likening it to standing on the edge of a cliff, just waiting to be shoved off into the abyss.

“The plans to shut 21 libraries, remove the rural bus routes along with reducing trading standards and highways maintenance is beyond anything they have seen previously and was described as ‘Tory social cleansing by the back door.'”

But the trade union, which represents workers at the county council, says what has most irked it is how little it has been told about the decision not to implement the two per cent pay rise at Angel Square.

She added: “We are very, very angry regarding the announcement of a pay freeze, which was not discussed with us last week in formal pay negotiations, but thrust upon us by email minutes before announcement by the council.

“This is not the way we expect to be treated by a local Government employer, when we have entered in negotiations. We will be asking for further meetings to discuss a pay rise for our members.”

The GMB said that some years ago it entered into an agreement with Northamptonshire County Council, whereby reps were promised better or on-par pay rises in comparison to with NJC.

The spokeswoman said: “The council have broken their agreement with the trade unions on this.

“We look forward to a discussion with the authority in the very near future.”

Council nears Financial Collapse after government fails to heed warnings from the GMB Union

The GMB Union have been campaigning since March 2017 to raise awareness of the mismanagement of finances at Northamptonshire County Council. The GMB have run numerous campaign stalls across Northamptonshire to raise awareness to local residents of the likely impacts of this mismanagement and to of course also stand alongside staff.

GMB Senior Organiser, Richard Taylor, wrote to both the Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Theresa May MP and Rt Hon. Sajid Javed MP, seeking reassurances that additional funds would be found to secure the jobs and vital public services provided by the authority.

The GMB hoped for a personal guarantee from the Prime Minister that the authority would not be allowed to collapse and that District and Borough councils in the County would not be forced to amalgamate into a failing Northamptonshire county-wide unitary authority to ease budget concerns.

In August 2017, the GMB received a response from Marcus Jones MP, Minister for Local Government. In this letter, the minister remarked that “Northamptonshire County Council…need to continue to play their part in tackling the deficit” and also noted that “The council is currently working to deliver the savings set out in their budget”

However on Friday 2nd February 2018, Northamptonshire County Council issued a section 114 notice imposing financial controls and banning expenditure on all services except for its statutory obligations to safeguard vulnerable people. It is understood Northamptonshire is the first local authority to issue a section 114 notice for two decades.

On Monday 5th February 2018, all seven of Northamptonshire’s MPs, including Leader of the House, Rt Hon. Andrea Leadsom MP issued a statement of no confidence in the authority’s leadership.

GMB Regional Lead officer for Northants County Council, Rachelle Wilkins said: “Without a doubt there have been issues with the Conservative leadership on Northamptonshire County Council but our regional MPs cannot just wash their hands of this issue, and at the 11th Hour point the finger of blame at the Authorities Leadership” “Considerable government cuts, which all seven County MP’s have supported for the previous seven years, have hit the council’s finances hard and Prime Minister, Teresa May’s, government have then ignored all of the warnings from the GMB and other stakeholders.”

She continued: “Additional funds had been found to prop up Surrey County Council and a considerable amount of money was allocated to Northern Ireland to bolster the Government. The residents of Northamptonshire are likely wondering why their area does not deserve the same commitment and support”