Conservative councillors attempted to block the 2% pay offer for local government workers, LGC has been told.
A document distributed by negotiating body National Employers to chief executives, and seen by LGC, following the pay announcement on Tuesday said political “deliberations” between members on the pay offer had been “difficult” over the past few months.
It added that the only way to break the deadlock was to hold a vote during a meeting of National Employers representatives who sit on the national joint committee, which also includes trades union officials and ultimately determines levels of local government pay.
LGC reported on Tuesday how the majority of council employees have been offered a 2% pay increase in each of the next two years, while there are also plans to introduce a new national pay spine on 1 April 2019.
Labour sources have told LGC Conservative members were initially split over whether to stick to the 1% cap or back a 1.5% pay increase.
It is understood they requested that a decision on the offer be delayed by a week but this was refused, prompting Conservative members to vote in favour of sticking to the 1% cap.
The three Labour representatives from English councils and one from Wales were joined by an independent member in backing the 2% pay rise. It is understood the four Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat representative voted against it. The single representative of the Democratic Unionists did not attend the meeting.
This 5-5 split meant National Employers chair Sian Timoney (Lab) had the casting vote and backed the 2% rise.
Despite the disagreement over the size of the rise, chief executives were informed that there had been general consensus on the length of the deal, the need to create “headroom” for any further changes to the national living wage and a requirement to reconfigure the lower end of the pay spine.
As a result the lowest paid council workers receiving £8.50 per hour from April next year, rising to £9.00 in 2019. The national living wage announced in the Budget for 2018 was £7.83.
A letter signed by 92 leaders of Labour councils to chancellor Philip Hammond has called on the government to lift the 1% pay cap on all public sector workers, guarantee that pay rises will be fully funded and urgently address the estimated £5.8bn gap that councils will face by 2020.
Leader of the Local Government Association’s Labour group Nick Forbes said he “unreservedly welcomed” the 2% pay increase.
He added: “The Tory policy of austerity has gone too far – it is just not fair to ask loyal local government staff to once again pay for this failed policy through lower wages.
”But local government has suffered the biggest cut of any part of the public sector so it is vital that the chancellor uses next week’s local government finance settlement to fully fund the cost of this deal, and to start to reverse the appalling cuts planned to local government.”
In June unions requested a 5% pay increase for all council staff in 2018-19, which would have added an extra £559m to the sector’s wage bill if it was met in full.
The unions are currently considering the latest pay offer and they are expected to respond in the next two weeks.
The Local Government Association’s Conservative group has been contacted for comment.