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CAR SETTLEMENT IN DOUBT AS METS OPPOSE DEAL

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Metropolitan councils were due yesterday to oppose the proposed package for resolving the car allowance dispute ham...
Metropolitan councils were due yesterday to oppose the proposed package for resolving the car allowance dispute hammered out at a meeting of the employers and unions last month, putting the possibility of settlement in doubt. Before the meeting Unison had announced it wanted to accept the deal after a ballot of branches found 260 in favour and only 33 against. But the Association of Metropolitan Authorities said its members were deeply unhappy with parts of the possible deal designed to protect recipients of existing car allowances. The deal would mean new allowances would not apply to current car users for two years and seven months, and they would have their old allowances updated each year. The AMA is angry that the package would not deliver real savings until April 1996 and instead would mean increased costs this year and next.

'At the AMA meeting last week there was fairly unanimous agreement that the proposed package was not on', said AMA Assistant Secretary Stephen Bubb on Monday.

'We will be asking for a renegotiation of the transitional arrangements. There is no support for it. 'It is not just a few isolated members but a large meeting. When faced with very difficult decisions on budgets they feel the staff side should be prepared to come to a deal which reduces the costs of the scheme this year', said Mr Bubb.

But aware of AMA dissatisfaction, Dennis Reed, Unison's chief negotiator for local government, said in advance of the meeting: 'We will be in a very serious situation if the employers renege on the package that their representatives agreed with us'.

He warned major escalation of the dispute on a national basis would follow if the employers pulled away from the deal at yesterday's meeting of the car allowance sub committee. Mr Bubb responded: 'I don't accept we have reneged on anything at all. It was absolutely clear from the outset it was a possible package which neither side was going to recommend to members for acceptance or rejection'.

The Association of District Councils and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities back the package.

The Association of County Councils was still consulting with its members and had not decided its position by Tuesday. Theoretically the other associations could outvote the AMA but the employers side in recent years has attempted to reach unanimous positions and avoid public splits. An outvoting is especially unlikely at a meeting of a sub committee when the whole employers side would not be present. As LGC went to press there was speculation that the employers would seek to defer a decision until a full employers side meeting could be called.

Mr Reed said Unison would not be happy with any delay. 'We are calling a full trade union side because if we find the deal is no longer on the table we will have to decide immediately what escalation action to take'.

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