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Conservatives Justification of Pay Rise is it Greed Culture?.
If ever there was statements that reveals the true nature of the Northamptonshire County Council administration it is those reported in the Chronicle and Echo (October 27 September 2012) by the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Joan Kirkbride when she justifies the Conservatives awarding themselves a 27% pay rise by saying
“Now was the right time for an increase” and “we need to bite the bullet now and get this straight”.
Why it was so ridiculous is because the vote taken by the County Council Conservatives was taken on the same day they proudly proclaimed in the Herald and Post that they had ‘frozen’ their allowances.
Either very bad planning to vote to increase their pay by 27% on the same day they boasted they hadn’t, or just plainly dishonest and incompetent.
What then transpired was that not only had they given themselves a huge pay rise but they had also decided to increase the number of top earners in the Cabinet at a cost to the taxpayer of over £20,000 a year, and this week (27 October) that the County Council Conservative Cabinet had claimed over £70,000 in expenses over and above their allowances.
Northamptonshire taxpayers will understandably now be asking if it is not only the MP’s at Westminster who have immersed themselves in the ‘greed culture’.
They will almost certainly be asking whether their councillors are more interested in self-interest and personal gain rather than that of the people who work for the Council and the public who pay their council tax from which Councillors are paid.
What has, and from the response I have had whilst out campaigning in Northampton really angered and amazed people is that at the same time the Northampton Conservatives have been taking decisions to line their own pockets they have announced that those who deliver essential front line services will have to take a 3.6% cut in their pay to “balance the books in these difficult times”.
What in fact they are saying is that staff such as Teaching Assistants who only a few years ago went through what many considered a discriminatory and unfair “Pay and Grading “review (those earning over £40k were excluded from the review) which saw many of them have their wages cut by up to 10%, followed by a three-year pay freeze should now take another 3.6% pay cut.
The latest proposals effectively mean that Classroom Assistants, the majority of who earn less than the allowances paid to Conservative Councillors even before their 27% pay rise will have had their wages cut by over 15% since 2009.
The alternative if the County Council Conservatives are to be believed is for staff to have their terms of employment dramatically changed to include not being paid for the first three days of sickness and having a week’s unpaid leave imposed on them every year.
There will be those who will say of the sick pay decision, “so what?” but have they forgotten that it is less than two years since a debilitating sickness bug spread across the country which if passed on to their elderly and vulnerable clients by staff would have dire consequences something front line staff are fully aware of even if councillors aren’t.
Of course no-one is saying that staff at all levels who abuse the system should be allowed to continue to carry on doing so but to penalise all of the lowest paid and essentially most important staff who deliver essential front line services while those at the top of the food chain continue to thrive at the taxpayers’ expense is simply wrong.
All of this of course comes at the same time as changes in welfare reform that is going to impact on the lower paid workers who may well find themselves better off on full benefits rather than as they are at present working to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
What I believe the Northamptonshire Conservatives and the Government are hoping will happen is that the public sector staff will in their desperation, (whatever happened to David Cameron’s we want people to have “aspirations” idea?) take strike action so they can demonise them even more than they are at present.
It may happen, but be very clear if it does, then it will be the fault of the coalition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who have engineered the situation not the fault of hard-working public sector workers delivering essential front line services,.
As for the Northamptonshire Conservative Councillors themselves will they take a cut in pay for not doing the job they have been elected to do?, when as was said to me by a resident in Ecton Brook last week and heard all too often,
“We have never seen our County Councillor and the last time we heard from them was just before the last election”.
Everyone knows the answer – Not a chance,
and these will be the same people who in 2013 will be making Council staff redundant to ‘balance the books’ to cover for their financial incompetence, and waste of public money on pet projects over the last eight years and be asking the public to vote for them to carry on receiving as one said after the 2011 Borough Council Election “Another Fat Cheque for 4 years” in the Count Council Election.
All we do know is that the ‘greed culture’ has definitely arrived in Northampton, what is surprising is that the Conservative Councillors don’t appear to be in the least bit embarrassed about it.