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By Suzanne Simmons-Lewis ...
By Suzanne Simmons-Lewis

Progress on implementing single status is slow, but there is room for cautious

optimism, according to a national survey.

The third annual survey by the Employers' Organisation found the biggest obstacle to faster progress was the additional cost of pay reviews.

Difficulties in developing a viable pay structure were also hindering progress.

Out of the 188 councils surveyed, which excluded London, over half had developed a pay structure, but only one fifth had implemented one.

Small to medium-sized councils in the south and south-east were making the most rapid progress. Northern metropolitan councils had made the slowest progress - virtually none have reached the stage of devising a new grading structure.

Human resources adviser at the Employers' Organisation Simon Cooper said this could be attributed in part to the complexities of large urban councils with more staff and wider service responsibilities.

Of the 137 councils that had chosen a method of job evaluation, 96 decided to use a version of the National Joint Council scheme. The Employers' Organisation said the scheme has strong trade union support and a high level of transparency. The report recommends it as 'a protective means against future equal pay challenges'.

However, the majority of county councils and councils in the south-east had chosen to use an alternative method, but had not made a decision on which one.

Three quarters of councils are removing their bonus schemes as part of the new pay structure. The Employers' Organisation noted this indicates how seriously the issue of equal pay is being taken.

The report observed a trend emerging where councils were opting for a narrow-banded grading structure, similar to former pay scales, which 'suggests the opportunity for authorities to implement a radical approach suited to the needs of modern service delivery is being missed'.

Malcolm Wing, Unsion's head of local

government, said: 'Progress is disappointingly slow and the reason is cost. We have argued and raised with ministers the need for a single status pot to assist councils

with implementation costs. We have

warned that unless progress is made councils will increasingly find themselves on

the receiving end of equal pay claims,

which in the long run will prove to be more expensive.'

He added: 'We sympathise with councils because the problem of pay discrimination in local government is a historic one and

you can't put these problems right over-

night unless you have additional resources. Single status cannot be implemented at

no cost.'

Rob Pinkham, deputy executive director of the Employers' Organisation, said: 'It would be foolhardy for local government to wait around expecting a fairy godmother to come and give them a pot of money to implement single status.

'Local authorities need to assess the real cost of implementing the review, taking into account the savings they would make through drift and devise a phased implementation over a number of years to offset the costs involved.'

Eight out of the nine regional employers' organisations responded to the survey, a sample of 188 councils out of 339. The Association of London Government was not asked to participate because councils in the region have already designed a specific job evaluation scheme for Greater London.

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