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CANTERBURY IGNORES PAY LIMIT TO HELP LOW WAGED

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Canterbury City Council has defied the government's public sector pay ceiling and given 80% of its 640 staff pay ri...
Canterbury City Council has defied the government's public sector pay ceiling and given 80% of its 640 staff pay rises of more than 1.5%. The hung council approved a settlement last month which will add 2.2% to its pay bill. It had budgeted for a pay bill increase in line with the 1.5% limit but an urgency committee of the council in July approved additional spending of £39,000 to cover the difference.

The deal, which was negotiated with Unison, is bottom loaded to help the low paid. It involves a flat rate increase of £324 a year for those earning less than £20,880. The remaining 18% of the staff will receive 1.5%.

The flat rate increase represents rises for individuals ranging from 1.6% to 4.6%. Unison had submitted a claim for a flat rate increase for all staff of £396.

The deal was supported by the minority Liberal Democrats administration and the Labour group. Helping the lower paid was a priority according to Liberal Democrats group leader Jackie Hayes.

She said: '1.5% of very little is very little indeed and at the lowest level the increase would be so negligible it would hardly have been worth having.

'In a recession the low paid tend to be more seriously affected. We have also taken into account that where we are situated in Canterbury is an expensive area to live in', she said.

Ms Hayes accepts the possibility that the government might seek to punish the council for breaking the limit this year by reducing its grant next year. 'But our experience of the way the government has treated us in the past has not lead us to be optimistic about what they would do to us anyway', she said.

'We have come to a fair and reasonable settlement locally and, in the region of 2%, it is not a desperate breach. I don't see this as driving a coach and horses through it and I am not suggesting it sets a precedent for ourselves or other authorities'

Canterbury introduced its local pay scheme in 1989 when it was controlled by the Conservatives. It went to no overall control two years ago.

Other councils which have local pay schemes have not been so generous with some implementing pay freezes or cutting back terms and conditions (LGC, 4 June).

Woking BC decided earlier this year not to make a cost of living award to its white collar staff. Hove BC deferred its pay negotiations for two and a half months. Hertsmere BC withdrew health and life insurance schemes and Dover DC cut its performance related pay budget by 40%.

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