The number of people working in local government and the cost of the workforce has fallen in the past two years, according to research by the Local Government Association.
A ‘facts and figures’ guide to pay and employment in 2010-11 published today shows a 1.5% fall in the number of full time equivilant (FTE) employees since 2008-09 and a 5.4% real-terms reduction in the pay bill over the same period.
In cash terms, however, the gross pay bill has increased by 1.2%. A spokesman attributed this to incremental pay increases, the 1% pay increase awarded in 2008-09 as well as “pay drift” due to promotions and employees moving from part-time to full-time work.
The LGA’s research compared low average earnings growth of 3.9% in local government, a real terms fall of 2.7%, to other areas of the public sector, such as the Department for Communities & Local Government where average earnings had increased by 16.5%.
Sir Steve Bullock, chair of the local group workforce programme board and mayor of Lewisham LBC, said the figures discredited the “the common myth of profligate councils”.
The LGA’s research shows that local government employment has reduced while other parts of the public sector have grown and council employees have seen smaller earnings growth than elsewhere
In comparisons to other sections of the public sector, the report points out that local government employment and wages increases have been left behind.
While FTE employment in local government fell by 15,000, or 1.5%, the public sector as a whole grew by 4.5%, powered by a 0.7% increase in the police, 5.2% in the NHS and the civil service growing by 1.9%.
The LGA’s report singled out three departments which had seen employment grow by more than 20% - the Department of Health (22.3%), Home Office (21%), and Treasury (34%).
The pointed comparisons within the paper, which also repeated the LGA’s claim that the workforce was set to decrease by a further 140,000, comes after local government was branded “a bloated bureacracy” by communities minister Bob Neill.
The LGA’s analysis showed that average earnings in local government had risen by 3.9%, compared to 7.1% for nurses, 4.2% for teachers and 6% in the civil service.
Again some government department showed a much higher rate of growth than the 7.1% seen across the public sector as a whole, including a 25.7% increase in the Department for International Development, a 16.5% increase in the DCLG, and a 14% increase in the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.
Sir Steve said: “These figures show that far from the common myth of profligate councils paying huge salaries to armies of unnecessary pen-pushers, local authorities have been operating significant pay restraint in the past few years as they dealt with the impact of the recession and shrinking budgets.
“The restraint in the pay-bill occurred at the same time that councils were dealing with the equal pay issue and were rightly closing the gender pay gap in local government to one of the lowest in Europe, which caused an upward pressure on salaries.
“Councils knew the cuts to their budgets were coming and did all they could to prepare, taking early action to reduce the size of their workforce and as a result cutting the overall wage bill. This came against a background of overall growth in other areas of the public sector and demonstrates local government’s commitment to providing value for money to council taxpayers.
“Despite the pay restraint demonstrated by this research, the local government workforce continues to work very hard providing essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The 7.1% average earnings growth in the public sector between 2008-09 and 20010-11 compared to a -0.9% change in the private sector.