Unison attacks town hall ‘billions’

Public sector union Unison has hit out at local authorities for refusing an increased pay rise request, saying councils are ‘sitting on’ £3 billion.

Town halls have allegedly accumulated the funds, which are not earmarked, through efficiency savings.

As a result councils in England and Wales should increase a rejected 2.45 per cent pay offer, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis believes.

“These billions of pounds in the bank, put there by the hard work of hundreds of thousands of low paid Unison members, should be used by the employers to settle this potentially damaging dispute,” he said.

“The employers don’t have to go to the government with a begging bowl, or put up council tax or cut jobs or services or any other dire consequences they are threatening. They should face up to the fact that the solution is staring them in the face.”

Unison is planning strike action later this week. On Wednesday and Thursday 600,000 local government workers will take industrial action because of what they say is a real-term pay cut.

Mr Prentis hopes councils will back down by reverting to their funds in the bank. Unison says local authorities together hold £11 billion, of which £3 billion is not earmarked for specific use.

“Food, fuel and energy bills are going through the roof and, as everyone knows, they hit the lowest paid the hardest. We are not asking for tanker driver pay increases, but a decent living wage,” he added.

Low pay is damaging the services offered by local authorities, Unison believes. It highlights a recent Audit Commission report showing severe staff shortages in many councils, forcing town halls to spend millions on paying agency fees for temporary staff.