Salary review sees hundreds of Huntingdonshire District Council employees faced with pay cut

Huntingdonshire District Council.

Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: Archant

Nearly 300 Huntingdonshire District Council employees face a pay cut – some by up to 30 per cent – after a review of salaries.

The authority is introducing a new pay model from April 1 and has evaluated all the posts held by its 692 permanent members of staff.

While 42.5 per cent of the workforce, 294 people, could lose out, the vast majority of the rest, some 395 employees, will see their wages increase. Just three will stay the same.

A detailed breakdown of the winners and losers reveals 10 workers could lose more than 30 per cent of their pay, while 13 could gain more than 30 per cent.

The details of the review are contained in a report by HDC managing director Joanne Lancaster, which was considered by the cabinet on Thursday.

It says a series of consultations were held with staff in December, resulting in 170 responses.

Those who will see a negative impact on their pay packets can appeal. Employees who accept the new arrangements can choose one of two ways to lessen the immediate impact – continued full pay for three months or their new salary plus half of the difference for six months.

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Anyone who rejects the offer will be “deemed to have terminated their ­employment with the council and will not be eligible for any redundancy payment/severance”, says the report.

The review also includes scrapping extra payments, such as car and ­attendance allowances, from April 1.

Mrs Lancaster said there had been no option but to make changes. “Realistically, the council has little choice but to revisit its pay arrangements as the current model is not financially sustainable and is inequitable, leaving the council at risk of equal-pay claims.

“It was introduced in the 1980s in a period when it was very difficult to recruit certain categories of staff and established very long grades to provide the flexibility necessary at the time.”

The new model will mean staff will see a slower rate of increase in their salaries in the long term, with tougher standards to be achieved before a rise is awarded.

Mrs Lancaster concedes that some employees’ appeals will be successful and contingency money, a £100,000 pot, has been set aside.

If agreed, the new arrangements will come into force on April 1.

Initially, the changes will cost HDC more in wages because of the impact of protecting pay but by 2018/19 it estimates the saving will be £324,000, rising to £452,000 by 2020/21.

Mrs Lancaster, whose salary under the new structure starts at £117,500 – down from £125,000 on the advertised wage – with earning potential of £132,500, concludes: “The council has, for around 25 years, had an unchanged pay ­structure, which has become unaffordable and unsustainable.

“The review has been ongoing for a number of years, causing anxieties for staff and leading to difficulties in staff retention/recruitment.

“Whilst there are staff who will be losing salary this is a necessary process and by drawing the review to a ­conclusion, the council can now have confidence that it has an affordable equal and consistent pay framework.”

HDC executive leader Councillor Jason Ablewhite said the pay review was many years overdue. “There has not been a review for 25 years and the key emphasis was to implement a system that was fit for the 21st Century,” he said. “One that was equitable and affordable.”

On staff morale, Cllr Ablewhite added: “It will be very difficult and we will be monitoring this very closely.”

At its meeting on Thursday, HDC’s cabinet approved the pay model.

The council has to find from its £78million budget savings of about £5.8m by 2017/18 – after cutting £3.9m from its spending since 2010/11.

In September, Mrs Lancaster issued a stark warning in her Facing the Future report to officers and councillors – cuts need to be made and extra revenue found for HDC to live within its reduced budget for 2015/16.