Headlines: February 6th, 2008

Local Government employers and unions have both welcomed the news of further financial support from the Government for English local authorities to help them resolve disputes over equal pay for council workers. The Local Government Minister, John Healey, said the authorities would get support next year to help manage the cost of implementing equal pay arrangements.

He did not give any figure but the Government has already indicated that it would allow authorities to use 500million pounds from borrowing or capital receipts to deliver equality. Mr. Healey said councils were making real progress and almost half had completed or implemented their pay reviews.

“But progress and determination still varies in different areas, and I want many more authorities to tackle this in an active and affordable manner. It is only right that people benefit from their right to equal pay as quickly as possible,” he added.

The chair of the Local Government Employers, Sir Steve Bullock, said councils wanted equal pay and were working hard to achieve it. Mr. Healey’s announcement, he said, was an excellent step along the road of achieving equality. The move was also welcomed by Dave Prentis, the General Secretary of Unison, who said it would be a boost for low paid women workers in local government.

For the GMB union, national officer Brian Strutton said the main obstacle to introducing equal pay was cost and most local authorities had simply not set aside enough money to fund the task. “That has led to the current crisis of some workers suffering pay cuts to balance the cost of others’ equal pay and mass litigation all over the place which only benefits lawyers,” he added.