BREAKING NEWS: Unpaid leave could be forced on thousands of Northamptonshire County Council staff

The county council headquarters in Angel Street.
The county council headquarters in Angel Street.

Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council bosses have announced they could enforce more than 2,000 staff to take a day's "unpaid leave" as the authority struggles to balance the books.

A fortnight ago, chief executive Paul Blantern, and leader Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle) issued an urgent plea to the Government to address a funding "inequality" that sees like-sized councils receive hundreds of pounds more per head in Whitehall funds.

Unison secretary Penny Smith.

Unison secretary Penny Smith.

A circular email sent to employees in the past hour has revealed the One Angel Square bosses are now proposing a drastic step because of extraordinary "in-year" pressures.

The letter to some 3,000 staff, who range from social workers to home carers and highways planners, has revealed the authority is considering enforcing a day of unpaid leave.

It states: "As we continue to work hard to respond to these pressures, we need to let you know about one of the options we are currently having to consider.

"There is a provision to implement one day's mandatory unpaid leave which was negotiated as part of this year’s local pay bargaining, only to be exercised in exceptional financial circumstances, such as we now potentially find ourselves in."

The council says it is still working on solutions and will be outlining options to cabinet in October. It is understood the authority needs to find a further £15 million of savings to balance the books before the end of the financial year.

A county council spokesman said the lowest paid - anyone earning below £18,500 - would not be affected.

If all staff took a day of unpaid leave it could save around £300,000. Firefighters and teachers would not be affected.

"This is only a precautionary measure and we have discussed with trade union colleagues that we remain committed to avoid having to implement the requirement to take one day’s mandatory leave."

Penny Smith, secretary of the Northamptonshire Unison branch, said she was disappointed with the announcement.

"I'm extremely disappointed and the savings will not outweigh yet another measure to totally demoralise their staff," she said.

"It is appalling that the price of financial mismanagement by elected members is being born by their staff.

"UNISON is committed to opposing this as much as we can. We will fight on behalf of all staff."

The email states the pay deductions could be staggered over different pay packets and further talks to identify how disruption could be minimalised.