Ashfield District Council senior official admits Christmas bonus 'was wrong'
A WAR of words has broken out at a Notts council after one of its senior officials criticised a decision to pay staff a £250 Christmas bonus.
Ashfield District Council made the decision to pay £250 to all workers who earn less than £21,000 a year at a meeting last week.
But the council's own finance chief has hit out at the decision – claiming it was not budgeted for and could lead to the council having to make cuts elsewhere .
In a letter to all councillors, Dave Greenwood, the council's deputy chief executive and chief finance officer, said he had "grave concerns" about the move, which is costing the council £75,000.
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He criticised councillors for not consulting with council officers before making the decision.
His letter comes as it has emerged that the council is also due to look at extending the bonus scheme to all 524 council workers, regardless of their pay.
This move could cost council taxpayers an additional £52,750.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, Liberal Democrat group leader, described the internal dispute as "crazy" and something he had never seen before.
"Clearly the process of this financial decision had not been right," he added.
"This shows Labour cannot manage finances and cannot be trusted to run a council."
Mr Zadrozny accused the council of getting its priorities wrong in the face of cuts in services and a decision to double car-parking charges.
Chris Thorne, who is leading a campaign against the parking charges, said: "I can see double standards being applied by the council.
"If they are saying they can't afford to reduce or scrap car-parking charges in order to maintain frontline services, why have they got money to give away to its workers? "
Independent councillor Gail Turner, said: "I truly appreciate the staff at the council, but the council cannot afford to do this. And to spend another £52,750 on awarding the payment to all staff members would be absolute lunacy."
The motion was put forward by Labour councillor Mick Coppin, who said the payment would reward workers who had "endured a three-year pay freeze" and "worked tirelessly to bring forward financial savings".
When approached for a response to Mr Greenwood's letter, Mr Coppin said: "We had money set aside for this. We are well within our budget. This will not make a difference."
In his letter, Mr Greenwood said officers should have been consulted before the motion was put forward. But Mr Coppin said: "Councillors make decisions, not officers."
The council's special local joint consultative committee is to consider plans, put forward by Ashfield GMB and Unison, to extend the one-off payment to all council workers at its meeting next Wednesday.
Ashfield District Council said Mr Greenwood's letter would not impact on its decision to pay out the bonus.
It follows a decision by Gedling Borough Council to spend £80,000 of its money on a £250 cash reward for workers earning £21,500 or less.
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