Council makes U-turn over car allowance
New rulers to reinstate payments
An National allowance paid to council workers in Northumberland using their own cars is to be reinstated.
Liberal Democrat leaders at Northumberland County Council scrapped the payments before their
defeat at the polls earlier this month.
The move resulted in members of trade unions voting to take industrial action, including possible strikes, with action short of a strike – those effected refusing to use their cars for work having already begun.
A mass rally was also held at the council’s County Hall base.
Now, the authority’s new Labour leaders have announced they will be reinstating the allowance.
The cost-cutting move involved doing away with annual lump sum allowances ranging from £850 to £1,200 paid to hundreds of workers who use their own cars to perform their duties.
It also involved reducing the mileage rate paid to employees such as social workers, planning officials, animal health inspectors, mobile caretakers, admin assistants and school support officers.
Union Unison said the move affected between 400 and 500 staff, and its ballot last month showed 70% supportfor strike action and 80% backing foraction short of a strike.
The latter began shortly after this month’s elections, with members refusing to use their cars for work.
The rally then took place at County Hall, with leader of the Labour group which triumphed at the polls, Grant Davey, a speaker.
He offered talks with the unions on the issue aimed at averting strikes, after last week’s full council meeting.
Now, following the meeting and those talks, the Labour group has confirmed the allowances will be reinstated.
Both the administration and the unions will consult on a new mileage-based scheme which takes into account miles travelled.
Coun Davey, now leader of the authority, said: “It was clear that the original scheme introduced by the previous administration was flawed, ill-thought out and failed to acknowledge the huge distances involved in working for the authority.
“It was also clear that too many categories of workers were going to be excluded from the schemeso we’ve decided it’s right to revisit the scheme and start from scratch.
“Our county spans a geographical area roughly the size of southern Cyprus and if our employees remove their willingness to participate in the scheme then services will suffer.
“At the centre of the new proposals is the principle of miles involved in the employee’s employment, not the grade of worker,and we think that is a fairway to tackle this issue.”
Unison representative Ian Fleming said: “We’re pleased that the new council has accepted the basic problem of lack of fairness in the previous administration’s essential car allowance
“It can't be right that an employee is penalised for using their own transport while delivering services for the council and taxpayer. The proposals will go out
to formal consultation and we’re cautiously optimistic that a fair settlement can be reached.”
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