The chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council was labelled a Christmas Scrooge - when a motion calling for him to honour a portion of the promised pay rise to his top-performing staff was turned down.
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 £400,00.
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.
But at this week’s full council meeting, Councillor Michael Brown (Kingsthorpe North, UKIP) put forward a motion asking the chief executive to use up the budgeted pay-rise pot of £400,000.
He said: “With Christmas coming this council is going back to Victoria times.”
And referencing Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Councillor Brown said: “At least Fagin picked the pockets of the rich - you are picking the pockets of the staff to try and balance your books.”
More than a dozen councillors then weighed in on the debate.
Councillor Adam Collyer (UKIP, Daventry West) said the authority could at least give the top performing staff two or three days leave next year as compensation.
Councillor Jill Hope (Lib Dem, Sixfields) said: “If you promised to do something, you have to do it.
“We are desperately short of permanent social workers - what is the message we are sending out there?”
But the motion was voted down by the controlling Tories.
Leader of the council, Councillor Heather Smith said there “never was” the budget to pay the full amount, owing to the unexpected rise in people achieving a good appraisal.
Lower-paid staff who will not now be given the extra £600 in their Christmas pay-packet were given some consolation through an apology by Mr Blantern.
He said: “I will personally say this: I am sorry the way the PADP (performance) scoring came through this year meant we were not able to pay”.
Mr Blantern added that under normal levels of achievement the system “pays for itself”.
But he admitted, this year the council was “way off the mark”.
He said: “In the public sector in this country, we are working phenomenally hard.
“We know demand for our services is going through the roof. We know finances for services is flat-lining.
“However I have - and I take responsibilty for this - I have to balance the demand.”
Mr Blantern said the pay rise would have meant an increased wage bill for the council and would “whack up your wage bill for future years too”.
He added that he was due to hold talks with the unions about being able to “do something this year,” by way of compensation.