Political leadership absent as Council managers trouser a £6,000 Christmas pay rise
By Bill Heaney
The astonishingly insensitive decision of West Dunbartonshire Council Chief Executive Joyce White, pictured right, to award herself and five other colleagues in her management team a pay rise of £6,000 a year has exposed the greed within our basket case local authority.
Even Scotland’s’ MEPs have ruled out accepting a pay rise next year, and pressure is now mounting on MPs in Westminster – all of them, including the Ian Blackford-led rump of SNP representatives – to do the decent thing and refuse to take the money while so many people are living in poverty and using food banks to feed their families.
Scottish Parliament representatives said it would be “wholly inappropriate” to increase their salaries next year while the UK was fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
MSPs’ salaries are linked to public sector pay – and they were due to receive a 5.1 percent rise.
However, Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has announced that the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party corporate body has rejected the plan.
MSPs currently receive a salary of £64,470. The Council chief executive’s pay is double that at around £130,000 a year.
In a letter to Scottish politicians, Mr Macintosh wrote: “In the midst of a public health crisis with such devastating economic consequences and hardship for so many households, the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) unanimously agreed that it would be wholly inappropriate for the ASHE index to be applied to MSP and ministerial salaries next year.”
He added: “These are exceptional circumstances and no other decision would have been appropriate or welcome at this time – either inside or out with Parliament.
“Now, more than ever, is a time for political leadership where our own salaries are concerned.”
As ever there has been no sign of political leadership in Dumbarton where Cllr Jonathan McColl leads the SNP administration.
The SNP refuse to comment on anything that might embarrass them. Indeed, they refuse to comment on anything at all to The Democrat.
Cllr McColl’s enthusiasm for austerity and SNP cuts in services has been plain for all to see in West Dunbartonshire, but when it comes to officials’ salaries he appears to have been struck dumb.
Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh.
One councillor told us that the pay rise for officials is a delegated function and that Mrs White herself alone made the decision on the £6000 Christmas pay rise – just as she called the shots on the recent management reshuffle.
All the officials involved in the monstrous pay hike already earn around or in excess of £100 000 a year with Mrs White’s package in the region of £130,000.
The Council’s workforce – it totals in the region of 6,000, including teachers – is livid however and their trade unions have already had a meeting and issued the following statement:
The Joint Trade Unions in West Dunbartonshire, Unison, EIS, GMB and Unite are stunned that Senior Managers in West Dunbartonshire Council have been awarded a substantial pay increase with no consultation or communication with the Trade Unions.
Policy and Collective Bargaining arrangements dictate that any restructure or new positions are fully consulted with the Joint Trade Unions. SWITCH Policy states that during a restructure NO member of staff can be matched to a higher graded position and displaced staff must apply through the recruitment process.
This would suggest to us that West Dunbartonshire Council operates a two tier workforce system where policy and procedures only apply to lower graded staff.
Our members deserve to be treated fairly and equally throughout the organisation. They have worked through austerity and years of pay cuts while keeping services going, especially during this public emergency.
The Joint Trade Unions have requested details of this senior management restructure on several occasions with no information to date. We call for a halt to this process pending meaningful consultation and assurances of openness and transparency.
We demand fair procedures applicable to the whole organisation and an end to this apparent two tier workforce structure.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, of course, announced her £500 “gift” for NHS, council and other frontline workers, which has been widely condemned as a ploy to spark a debate on independence and has set some council workers at each others’ throats when it comes to who for qualifies this.
The pay rise she promised has turned out to be a taxable sum which depends on how many hours people have worked and and if they are already in receipt of Universal Credit and could end up being as little as £123 or maybe even nothing at all.
Ms Sturgeon had the brass neck to ask Boris Johnson to pick up the tab on the tax despite the fact that Scotland has its own taxation system.
The latest move on pay puts increased pressure on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which sets Westminster MPs’ salaries, to also reject a pay rise.
Ipsa has not officially set out whether it will grant those in the House of Commons a raise, but they are expected to recommend a 4.1 percent increase.
The amount would equate to an extra £3,300 a yea, just about half of what the Council managers will receive.
There is said to be “outrage” among MPs at the prospect of an increase in salary when public sector pay has been frozen.
Last month Chancellor Rishi Sunak imposed a pay freeze on 1.3 million public sector workers saying it was hard to justify the rise when they already earned so much more than many of those in the private’s sector and the public finances had been hit hard by the pandemic.
Holyrood presiding officer Ken Macintosh, who is retiring in May next year, said a rise would be ‘wholly inappropriate’ given the crisis which the country currently finds itself in.
The Sunak decision means teachers, police and firefighters in England will not see their salaries increase.
But Ipsa is an independent body which has sole discretion on MPs’ salaries, meaning parliamentarians cannot reject their own pay rise if approved. [Imagine that! Ed].
Some MPs are already demanding a change in the law to override Ipsa’s recommendation if they suggest a raise.
Tory MP John Redwood said the Prime Minister should “legislate to override the independent MP pay body that otherwise will pay more to MPs at a time of restraint”.
And Conservative Steve Baker added: “Ipsa must freeze MP pay if there is a public sector pay freeze.
“If necessary, the law must be changed.”