Archive for February 24, 2012

That was the local government week that was

February 24, 2012

Another week down; is it nearly pay day?

As is so often the case with our weekly round up; no sooner have we finished writing it than we read something that definitely deserves to be included and so it proved last week  with this piece from Richard Vize about councils and council tax benefit reform:

Of all the battles to be fought over local control, council tax benefit is one issue where the government has been delighted to live the localist dream. There were just two caveats when ministers announced that control of the benefit was being handed to councils; it had to be done quickly – by 2013 – and the bill had to be cut by 10%. The current bill is £4.8bn a year and some 5.8 million people in England on low incomes receive it.

Richard’s totally right. Not only is the Government expecting local government to take away a lot of people’s benefits; they are doing so at a time when the amount of people eligible is increasing, at a time of decreasing local government budgets and at a time when other changes to benefits are making local government’s job even harder. The DWP are taking housing benefits back in house meaning that local authorities are left without the economies of scale that processing two benefits gave them. It isn’t getting easier and as Richard says:

Bringing down the welfare bill is a laudable aim, but caught between the rhetoric and the implementation are people with little money.

Ok, so that was a bit depressing but before we move on to things with a slightly more positive bent it is worth taking a quick look at local government pay. As the BBC reported yesterday:

Council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year. The Local Government Association confirmed a pay freeze for 1.6 million local government employees for 2012/13.

Times are tough across the economy so it is unlikely we will receive much sympathy for this but as Public Finance magazine report:

A study carried out for the union (Unison) by the New Policy Institute shows that full-time wages have fallen by 13% in real terms over the past three years, as a result of a below-inflation pay rise in 2009/10 followed by a two-year pay freeze.

Added to this there have been lots of marginal changes to allowances, expenses and overtime which have also impacted on staff. This has probably allowed local government to protect jobs but especially for those on the lowest incomes it has come at a price.