Pay rise money promised to Northamptonshire County Council staff to be spent on budget black hole

Heather Smith

Heather Smith

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County Hall staff cannot trust their employer again after money set aside for pay rises was funnelled into paying a fraction of the council's deficit, an opposition finance chief has said.

Earlier this month, the Chronicle & Echo revealed how the county council would not be giving employees who received good appraisals a promised £600 pay rise - because too many got the two highest ratings.

County Hall bosses forecast far fewer staff would be up to the task and only budgeted for 25 per cent hitting the mark, around £400,000. As a result, the council confirmed that meeting a commitment of £1 million would have to result in redundancies and awarded the pay rise to no-one.

After repeated questioning, the council has now revealed that chief executive Paul Blantern decided that £400,000 will go towards balancing the books - the local authority is £12 million in deficit.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokeswoman said: “As we are now reviewing our pay and performance policy, these costs will help in our work towards balancing this year’s budget delivery.”

Councillor Mick Scrimshaw, Labour's finance portfolio holder, said the amount of deficit that £400,000 would cover - three per cent - is a drop in the ocean, especially when compared with the morale-boosting effects of a pay rise.

He said: "If you work for this council at the moment, you will find it totally amazing that there's so many people motivated to overachieve like they did. And then they take this money away.

"How can staff trust the council in the future?"

It is understood that council leader Heather Smith's cryptic answer last week to the pay rise mystery question - which saw her declare that the £400,000 was never really there - referred to a plan to implement the increases through making savings in each department. Because no rises will now happen, the savings no longer need to be found.

The council spokeswoman said: "The cost of the performance increments are managed by individual service areas and, in this challenging financial climate, are funded in different ways, for example through vacancy savings."