Sunday, June 25, 2023

Verbs and verbosity


At the last full council meeting in Gateshead, Labour submitted a motion for debate. Labour motions here tend to be wordy affairs but the nearly 600 words in the motion on 25th May is probably a new record even for them. A helpful summary is: ask the government to pay for the pay increase demands of those in local government. At Lib Dem group meeting a few days before full council, we discussed Labour's essay of a motion and I joked that because it was full of debating points, the person moving it simply had to read out the motion rather than write a speech!

So I was rather amused when the motion was moved at council and the mover of the motion, Cllr Dot Burnett, simply read out the motion but otherwise said nothing else!

Our amendment simply called on the council to write to the Shadow Chancellor as well as the actual Chancellor about the motion. The demands in the motion are, after all, not Labour policy nationally. Gateshead Labour rejected the amendment. Apparently, they are happy to ask a Tory Chancellor to support their calls on pay, but they aren't happy to bring their concerns to their own Shadow Chancellor. Perhaps Gateshead Labour have given up on their national leadership.

The wording of the motion was:

“This Council notes:


Local government has endured central government funding cuts of more than 50% since 2010. Between 2010 and 2020, councils lost 60p out of every £1 they have received from central government. Councils across England are now facing a collective funding gap of £2.4bn for the financial year 2023/24 and a cumulative funding gap of £4.08bn for 2024/25 according to UNISON research.


Councils led the way in efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic, providing a huge range of services and support for our communities. Local government has shown more than ever how indispensable it is. But Covid has led to a massive increase in expenditure and loss of income, and as we emerge from the pandemic, local authorities and schools need far more support from Westminster. Recent funding announcements from the Government relating to schools did nothing to help.


Council and school workers kept our communities safe through the pandemic, often putting themselves at considerable risk as they work to protect public health, provide quality housing, ensure our children continue to be educated, and look after older and vulnerable people.


Since 2010, the local government workforce has endured years of pay restraint with the majority of pay points losing at least 25 per cent of their value since 2009/10. Staff are now facing the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, with inflation hitting 10% and many having to make impossible choices between food, heating and other essentials. This is a terrible situation for anyone to find themselves in.


At the same time, workers have experienced ever-increasing workloads and persistent job insecurity. Across the UK, 900,000 jobs have been lost in local government since June 2010 – a reduction of more than 30 per cent. Local government has arguably been hit by more severe job losses than any other part of the public sector.


There has been a disproportionate impact on women, with women making up more than three-quarters of the local government workforce.


Recent research shows that if the Government were to fully fund the unions’ 2023 pay claim, around half of the money would be recouped thanks to increased tax revenue, reduced expenditure on benefits and tax credits, and increased consumer spending in the local economy.


This council believes:


Our workers are public service super-heroes. They keep our communities clean and safe, look after those in need and keep our towns and cities running.


Without the professionalism and dedication of our staff, the council services our residents rely on would not be deliverable.


Local government workers deserve a proper real-terms pay increase. The Government needs to take responsibility and fully fund this increase; it should not put the burden on local authorities whose funding has been cut to the bone and who were not offered adequate support through the Covid-19 pandemic.



This council resolves to:


Support the pay claim submitted by UNISON, GMB and Unite on behalf of council and school workers, for an increase of RPI + two per cent funded by central government


Call on the Local Government Association to make urgent representations to central government to fund the NJC pay claim


Write to the Chancellor and Secretary of State to call for a pay increase for local government workers to be funded with new money from central government


Meet with local NJC union representatives to discuss for the pay claim and consider practical ways in which the council can engage with the campaign


Encourage all local government workers to join a union.”

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