Headlines: September 29th, 2008

More councils are to be given the financial flexibility to be able to move faster towards their their long-term commitments to achieving equal pay for staff. The Local Government Minister, John Healey, has given approval to 34 local authorities to raise the money to meet equal pay liabilities. The announcement, which has been welcomed by the union, UNISON, and by the Local Government Employers, means the councils can now raise 455 million pounds either by borrowing against or selling assets. It will enable them to make one-off back-payments to thousands of employees, mostly women on low pay.

The Government has now approved more than 1.1 billion pounds of capitalisation over a three-year period and says there is evidence that this is speeding up progress in achieving equal pay. In July 2007 less than half of authorities had either implemented or completed their local pay reviews. By the end of July this year the figure had reached 60 per cent.

Mr. Healey said he was determined to see councils settle their equal pay obligations. Good progress had been made in the last year but, he said, he wanted to see even greater progress while the momentum of the past year was maintained. “I want to see councils go further and faster, working closely with the trades unions, to see fair pay for all staff,” Mr. Healey said.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said the latest announcement built significantly on previous capitalisation directions. Sir Steve Bullock, the Chair of the Local Government Employers, said councils were working hard to achieve equal pay and added, “Providing a fair settlement on equal pay remains an urgent issue for local councils who must act in the best interests of local tax payers as well as all staff and this is a clear indication that Government shares our determination to resolve the issue and understands the size of the challenge involved. ”