Gedling Borough Council staff to share £85,000 festive bonus
A NOTTS council wants to spend £85,000 of taxpayers’ money giving its lower-paid workers a Christmas bonus and all staff an extra day off.
Gedling Borough Council will next Thursday discuss plans to pay a one-off bonus of £250 to staff members who get paid £21,500 or less, and also give all of its 400 employees an extra day off at New Year’s Eve. The council said nearly half of all council employees earn below £16,830 per year, with some 10 per cent earning less than £12,500.
The council said the “impressive savings” achieved by “hard-working” council workers should be rewarded and that the “time was right” to offer the pay-out after years of public sector pay freezes.
The trade union Unison has supported the plans.
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But the proposals have sparked anger among taxpayers and opposition councillors.
Andrew Ball, 36, of Whittingham Road, Mapperley, described the proposals as “bonkers”. “When I saw it first, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Mr Ball, who works in a call centre for Nationwide in Northampton, said any spare council cash should be spent on other projects, such as improving neighbourhoods in the borough.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he added. “How can they complain about not getting enough money from the Government, about having to cut services and then just give away such an amount of money?
“This is the taxpayers’ money – my money. I would like a Christmas bonus, but I can’t get one.
“I think awarding their staff a bonus at a time when everyone is struggling with rising costs of fuel, electricity and food, is absolutely bonkers.”
The plans come as a Post survey of 100 people revealed rising cost of living was a major concern for the future for 25 per cent of people in Arnold.
Mark Hammans, chairman of the Arnold Business Forum, described the proposals as “bizarre”. He said: “I don’t agree with it. There are plenty of things to spend £85,000 on – the disadvantaged in the borough, the elderly, the young.
“And in effect, it is the public paying out the cash.”
Conservative councillor John Parr described the plans as “unbelievable”, adding: “I don’t think a bonus and an extra day off is a justifiable move in this economic climate.”
Labour leader of the council, Councillor John Clarke, said: “Employees have worked very hard over the last few years to be as cost effective as possible and we are now one of the most efficient councils in the country.
“We feel that the time is right, just before Christmas, to offer some of our lowest paid employees a one-off payment, and to reward all staff with an extra days’ leave on New Year’s Eve.”
Linda Whitehurst, 65, of Arnold, said she and her husband, Howard, 68, welcomed the plans. “We both think it’s reasonable, considering the pay freeze,” she added.
Maureen Hayes, 66, of Glen Parva Avenue, Arnold, said: “I don’t have a problem with it. I think this could help to motivate council staff.”
Louisa Wass Griffiths, Unison regional organiser, said: “Our members at Gedling are flexible, hard working and loyal to their employer and the public they serve.
“Whilst our members do need more of an increase to keep pace with their bills, the extra day’s pay to everyone is a welcome boost to morale in these difficult times.”
Deputy leader councillor Michael Payne claimed the bonus payment had effectively been encouraged by Chancellor George Osborne, who said when he announced the public sector pay freeze in 2010 that council workers on low wages could still be given an extra £250 a year.
The Treasury said it was up to councils how they paid wages, but its policy statement did not make reference to the use of the cash as bonuses for hard work.
Seven other Notts councils contacted by the Post said they would not be offering Christmas bonuses and had not done so for years.
Gedling Borough Council Cabinet members will discuss the proposals at a meeting at the civic centre in Arnold at 12.30pm on Thursday, November 8.
The report prepared for the meeting says giving out the bonus is estimated to cost the authority £80,000 and the extra day off no more than £5,000. It also says the council has saved more than £300,000 per year by filling vacancies only internally and removing posts not considered essential.
Do you think council workers should get a Christmas bonus? Tweet me @WinniePonderosa using #Gedlingbonus or call me on 0115 9051963.