‘We had concerns over this from the start’ – Rebel councillors demand rethink on staff pay cuts following budget vote drama


Rebel councillors will demand controversial staff pay cuts are abandoned in crunch budget talks at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Elected members at the city council rejected budget proposals on Thursday after several City Independents councillors voted against their Conservative coalition partners – mainly due to proposals to slash workers’ term and conditions to save £934,000.

The City Independents will now meet with city director Jon Rouse on Monday as senior officers attempt to end the budget deadlock.

Councillors will have another go at passing a budget at a meeting on Friday, March 6, just days before the legal deadline of March 11.

City Independents leader, and deputy council leader, Ann James, was one of six members of her group to vote against the budget, which included £9.2 million of cuts. She says the T&Cs proposal has to be removed from the budget, with an alternative saving found.

Council workers currently receive a 20 per cent unsocial hours payment for working evenings, and time-and-a-half for working weekends. Trade unions say removing these enhancements would leave some workers thousands of pounds a year worse off.

Mrs James said: “The concerns we have are with the terms and conditions, that’s what this is all about. The officers worked hard on this budget, but the problem has been the changes to terms and conditions. We said we had concerns over it right from the start.

Councillor Ann James

“We would like to see this item removed from the budget. We know that means savings will have to be found somewhere else, and that could mean more redundancies, we appreciate that. But I don’t really understand why there’s never enough funding, I don’t know where it all goes.

“We’re going to have a meeting with the city director on Monday, and hopefully they’ll come up with alternative proposals which we can support.”

Councillors voted 22 to 19 against the budget on Thursday, with the City Independents group split – six voting against and five voting for, with one abstention. The budget could pass on Friday if just two of the City Independents switch sides.

The City Independents agreed to renew their coalition partnership with the Conservatives after last May’s local elections left the council with no group in overall control. Since then the Tories, as the larger group, have been the senior partners, with Abi Brown serving as council leader.

Mrs James had not yet spoken to Mrs Brown following Thursday’s meeting, but she said there would now have to be discussions between the City Independents and Conservatives over the future of the coalition.

Mrs Brown said councillors now had to come together to find a way forward.

Council leader Abi Brown

She said: “I am very disappointed that agreement wasn’t reached on the budget proposals yesterday. This position is not without precedent in other parts of the country and other authorities have adjourned council meetings and gone on to agree revised budget proposals. However, this is not where we want to be.

“Let me be clear. We are duty bound to set a legal budget by 11 March. If we don’t, the consequences for the authority will be severe.

“Clearly it is incumbent on all councillors to come together now and work towards agreeing budget proposals for the meeting on 6 March. I will be doing everything I can between now and then to ensure this happens, and I urge other councillors to consider the wider implications of this and do the same.”

It is not yet known what alternative budget proposals could come forward next Friday.

City Independents deputy leader Randy Conteh, who voted for the budget, said during Thursday’s meeting one alternative would be 31 more redundancies – the budget proposals already included cutting the equivalent of 78 full-time jobs.

City director Jon Rouse
City director Jon Rouse

Ahead of the budget meeting, city director Jon Rouse, the council’s top officer, wrote to employees to explain the review of terms and conditions.

He said while the council had been in ‘formal discussion’ over the review, the unions had said ‘they did not want to negotiate’ and had offered no alternative proposals.

But Mr Rouse said staff members had made a number of suggestions for saving money during the budget consultation. These included introducing parking charges, cutting pay for all staff and reducing annual leave entitlement.

In his email, Mr Rouse said: “We have shared these ideas with our trade union colleagues and remain keen to talk to them about workable alternative proposals.”

But Tony Jones, regional organiser for Unison, insisted the unions had offered alternative proposals, but these had been rejected by the council.

Trade union members protested against the cuts ahead of the council meeting
Trade union members protested against the cuts ahead of the council meeting

He said: “We congratulate the Labour and City Independent councillors who voted down the budget. It was a victory for common sense.

“We are willing to negotiate, but we have our red lines – namely protecting the pay of our members. We’re happy to talk to anyone who will be reasonable, and discuss the ways in which the council is wasting money. There are lots of ways the council can save money.”

But Mr Jones said a planned meeting between the unions and the council scheduled for March 4 had been postponed following the budget vote.

The city council is looking to make £9.2 million of budget savings in 2020/21.

Here is how each city councillor voted on the budget:

Lesley Adams – City Independents – FOR

Asman Ali – Conservative – FOR

Jane Ashworth – Labour – AGAINST

Melanie Baddeley – City Independents – FOR

Jackie Barnes – City Independents – FOR

Colin Beardmore – Conservative – FOR

Lorraine Beardmore – Conservative – FOR

Shaun Bennett – City Independents – ABSTAIN

Heather Blurton – Conservative – FOR

Jean Bowers – City Independents – AGAINST

Sabrina Bowers – City Independents – AGAINST

Janine Bridges – City Independents – FOR

Abi Brown – Conservative – FOR

Candi Chetwynd – Labour – AGAINST

Maxine Clark – Conservative – FOR

Randy Conteh – City Independents – FOR

Lilian Dodd – City Independents – AGAINST

Desiree Elliott – Labour – AGAINST

Dave Evans – Conservative – FOR

Stephen Funnell – Labour – AGAINST

Cheryl Gerrard – Independent – AGAINST

Faisal Hussain – Conservative – FOR

Ross Irving – Conservative – FOR

Ann James – City Independents – AGAINST

Dan Jellyman – Conservative – FOR

Gurmeet Singh Kallar – Labour – AGAINST

Chandra Kanneganti – Conservative – FOR

Rachel Kelsall – Conservative – FOR

Sadaqat Maqsoom – Conservative – FOR

Shaun Pender – Labour – AGAINST

Mohammed Pervez – Labour – AGAINST

Sheila Pitt – Labour – AGAINST

Andy Platt – Labour – AGAINST

Joanne Powell-Beckett – City Independents – AGAINST

Paul Shotton – Labour – AGAINST

Ally Simcock – Labour – AGAINST

James Smith – Conservative – FOR

Lee Wanger – City Independents – AGAINST

Alastair Watson – Labour – AGAINST

Amjid Wazir – Labour – AGAINST

David Williams – Labour – AGAINST

Jo Woolner – Labour – AGAINST

*Councillors Carl Edwards (Conservative) and Majid Khan (Labour) were both absent from the meeting.





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