Unison blasts North Northants councillor allowance rise as a 'slap in the face'

There’s been growing anger among local people after NNC councillors gave themselves a pay bump

Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 7:46 am
Last Thursday's full council meeting saw members vote through an eleven per cent payrise for themselves
Last Thursday's full council meeting saw members vote through an eleven per cent payrise for themselves

The union that represents many council workers says North Northants councillors who voted to give themselves a payrise should be ashamed.

Unison, which has many members that work for NNC, last night (Monday, June 27) blasted the councilors who voted through their own eleven per cent pay rise at a meeting while council workers wait to hear whether they will be awarded a two per cent rise.

The majority of councillors on the ruling Conservative group voted for their own basic allowances to be bumped from £12,718 to £14,000 at last Thursday’s (June 23) meeting.

All Labour members , one Green Alliance and one Independent voted against the rise along with two Tory rebels – Cllrs Scott Brown and King Lawal. Conservative Cllr Ken Harrington abstained after saying he wouldn’t be able to look residents in the face if he voted for the rise.

But the remainder of the Tory councillors nodded through the rise at the same meeting where they said they were over-worked and agreed with proposals to increase the number of councillors from 78 to 99.

Council leader Jason Smithers will now receive an annual allowance of £42,990 - an increase of 6.5 percent for what is considered his second job. He did not speak on this item at the meeting. Nor did his deputy Cllr Helen Howell.

UNISON East Midlands regional organiser Cathy Symes said in a public statement last night: “This self-imposed pay rise is a slap in the face of working people across North Northamptonshire and the Conservative councillors who approved this hike should be ashamed.

“Most working people don't have vast savings they can delve in to, or lucrative second jobs to boost their already well-paid main source of employment.”

At last Thursday’s meeting Cllr Mark Pengelly (Labour) said staff sitting in the very room that members were voting in were only going to receive a two per cent rise. Cllr Jim Hakewill (Independent) said that when he had spoken to local people about the issue they had used the phrase ‘snouts in the trough’.

Since the meeting, there has been significant anger on social media about the decision, with one current NNC officer writing an open letter in the Northants Telegraph about their disgust over the payrise.

Subsequently, more current and former staff have made contact with our reporters about the issues they have faced at work.

One recently-departed senior officer took to social media to say: “I had to walk away from a job I loved, from colleagues that were like family.

"And I will go so far as saying our councillors treated staff at Corby like family.

"What happened next.. displays complete neglect for the wellbeing of staff. I don’t say this lightly, it is alarming. I worry for former colleagues.”

UNISON North Northants Local Government Branch spokesperson Kev Standishday added last night: “Rather than spending their time and taxpayers’ money on their own expenses these Tory councillors should be concentrating on the council’s finances and staffing.

"North Northants Council has more than 900 unfilled vacancies, a 6-month waiting time for a housing appointment, and other key services in crisis with staff leaving in every department. It’s clear that these councillors care more about lining their own pockets than serving local people”.

Green Alliance leader Emily Fedorowcyz, who could not be at Thursday’s meeting as she was suffering from Covid, said last night: “At a time when so many people are going through financial difficulty, I am appalled that the Conservatives have voted to give councillors a payrise.

“We should be standing with the public in solidarity, even ring-fencing the proposed increase amount to help those that need it the most.

"Had I not had Covid-19 I would have fought this same case again, as I have done previously. It’s a sorry sight.”