Union anger at expenses cut

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald
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A leading union has reacted angrily to a cut of hundreds of thousands of pounds given in allowances to Peterborough City Council staff.

Unite said it had not ruled out balloting its 126 affected members for industrial action after the council’s employment committee ended 10 different allowances for staff, including enhanced weekend pay and home working expenses.

Unite regional officer Mark Plumb said the union was “making a stand.” He added: “We are consulting our members at present as to how they wish to take forward the campaign to protect their employment conditions.”

The council saved £440,000 last year from changing employee terms and conditions, and after a meeting last week it agreed to find another £290,000 of savings.

Other reduced allowances include the reimbursement of telephone calls and line rental, payments for subscriptions to professional bodies and payments for being called out or being on standby. The council will also no longer pay excess travel allowances for staff who are forced to move offices. Home working expenses for staff who do not use council offices can include part of their broadband costs and items such as desks and chairs.

Council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said: “The council finds itself in an unprecedented position having lost £40 million to its budget, and it has to make difficult decisions.”

Labour group leader Cllr Mohammed Jamil, who opposed the changes, said: “I just feel at a time like this when people do not get pay rises, and when they do it’s one per cent, I could not support this financial cut.”

Under the changes, the mileage rate will increase from 25p to 30p.

Unison and GMB reluctantly accepted the cuts. A council report stated: “Whilst unions did not feel that they could recommend that their members accept the proposals, they were clear that this was the best arrangement that could be achieved by negotiation.”

Despite Unite rejecting the proposals, it was outvoted by the other two unions.

The council employs 1,380 members of staff. The highest expenses claim by an individual in 2016/17 was just over £6,000.