Unions representing 1.3 million council workers have accepted a pay deal which will give an increase of 8.9% over three years. Currently the local government pay bill stands at 14.7 billion pounds. The deal also provides for new pay and grading structures worth another 4.5% which will deliver equal pay throughout councils in England, Wales and N. Ireland within three years. The package will boost the prospects of councils for increased productivity and more cost-effective and responsive local services. At the same time it will bring additional benefits to council employees.The package will allow councils to improve the standards of public services and to develop a more flexible economy. The new pay arrangements will encourage and reward high quality service delivery. Some length of service based increments will be combined with competency-based progression to allow a move away from length of service incremental scales to shorter scales with target points. The package will also allow councils to respond to the Chancellor’s call for regional pay for public service workers by devising pay rates that are more locally responsive.
The unions have secured a commitment to greater investment in the wider front line workforce, with a sustained increase in the amount of training and development offered. Currently council staff receive 1.8 days per year of off-the-job training. The average cost of training in 2003 was 208 pounds per employee. There will also be a move to a more strategic development of training by adopting skills pathways, similar to those used by the NHS.