Festive pay bonus for Gedling Borough Council workers is given go-ahead
PLANS to spend £80,000 of taxpayers' money on a £250 Christmas bonus for council workers have been given the go-ahead.
The move, ratified by Gedling Borough Council's cabinet members at a meeting yesterday, was opposed by 70 per cent of Post readers in a survey.
We revealed last week that the authority wanted to pay the bonus to workers on £21,500 a year or less and give all 550 members of staff an extra day off for New Year's Eve.
The Labour-controlled council said it was the right time to award the extra cash, following a three-year public sector pay freeze.
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Since the story was published on the Post's website last Friday, readers had the chance to vote on the question "Should staff at Gedling Borough Council get a Christmas bonus?".
Out of 474 people, 70 per cent said no. However, the poll was criticised by councillors, including deputy leader Michael Payne, who said the question was misleading and our report was "sensationalist".
When asked after yesterday's meeting for a better alternative, Mr Payne said: "I think the question should have read 'Do you think the borough council was right to award the £250 one-off payment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced in his budget to public sector organisations?'.
"The wording of the question was not obvious and most people who read the website will read it in a way that means 'all council staff', and not only lower-paid workers."
When Chancellor George Osborne announced the public sector pay freeze in 2010, he said council workers on low wages could still be given an extra £250 a year.
Chief executive of the council John Robinson told yesterday's meeting that the move was in line with the Government announcement and added: "This isn't something the council has dreamt up."
Darrel Pulk, portfolio holder for leisure and development on the council, welcomed the decision.
He said: "It is a one-off payment and won't have any long-term financial implications and I don't think £80,000 is a very large amount of money."
Council leader John Clarke said: "This is a difficult time, with end-of-the-year bills coming in. We want to alleviate a little bit of this for our lower-paid workers. This is a really good time to do it and a happy workforce is a good workforce."
The decision was welcomed by the Unison union and some residents, including John Pettitt, 68, of Hucknall, who said the cash was well deserved following the pay freeze.
However, dozens of readers contacted the Post saying they were outraged by the idea.
Linda Voce, 65, of Carlton, said: "I don't think the workers should get the payment. I don't get a bonus, my husband doesn't and none of my friends have for at least five years."
John Bowler, 75, of Lambley, said: "I've worked in local government for 26 years and I've never received a bonus."
Sylvia Leighton, of Clifton, described the decision as "wrong" and Beverley Pickering, 56, of Arnold, branded it "disgusting", adding: "It's not their money to give away."
Ronnie Brookes, of Ravenshead, also contacted the Post after reading Friday's story to say: "Gedling were the only council to put up their council tax last April. They have not done any extra work to warrant a bonus."
What do you think about the decision? Contact Winnie Agbonlahor on 0115 9051963 or Tweet her @WinniePonderosa