On Wednesday 13th June, 5-6pm, Trade Union membersof Unison, Unite and GMB, council staff and members of the public will gather in a demonstration outside the Civic Centre in Scunthorpe. This will be in protest against changes the council is forcing onto staff including those providing vital front-line services.
In recent weeks council staff were sent a letter from Chief Executive, Simon Driver. The letter expressed the council’s intention to dismiss staff from their jobs and then issue them with new contracts if they fail to agree changes to car allowances. The council’s Tory administration is insisting on pushing through this change and tearing up the scheme agreed nationally between employers and unions.
The change will remove the essential car user allowance that enables key staff to use their own vehicle for essential roles within the council. Many of those staff provide a vital lifeline for North Lincolnshire’s most vulnerable and needy groups. Staff who currently receive this allowance include those providing services such as care duties for the elderly, the crisis teams (supporting mental health, drug and alcohol and vulnerable children) and social workers. Staff are required to make emergency visits in the middle of the night, transport ill or vulnerable people and travel extensively throughout the authority. As a largely rural authority with many areas having poor or non-existent public transport links the car is an absolutely vital tool in providing such services.
Without the payment of this allowance, staff will be expected to subsidise the local authority to use their own cars. However, there are many staff receiving the payment that are low paid and may not be able to afford their cars without the allowance.
The local authority has a legal duty to provide many of these services and individual employees should not be expected to cover the costs of the authorities duties and rightly would be prepared to end the use of their own private vehicles for authority work.
Concerns for service users
The Council’s proposed alternative provision would be the use of pool cars. The reality of this suggestion is unworkable in many situations, such as emergency out of hours calls, and has not been costed out in any way to date. It is UNISON’s concern that implementing a pool car system will end up costing more than the ‘savings’ the council is trying to achieve, if done properly.
Around the Yorkshire and Humber region, council’s have removed their pool car facilities due to spiralling costs. In many cases there has also been a failure to properly manage the facilities resulting in lack of availability. This would seriously affect the council’s ability to fulfill its statutory duties.
Figures have already shown that the ‘windfall’ savings made this year on an unexpected third year pay freeze have already saved the council more than £1m above the proposed savings from this change. That saving is also more than £1.1m above the total savings identified from employee terms & conditions in the council four year budget approved only in February.
The Council should not pursue this sticking plaster approach to their budget cuts especially when it is so uneccessary. It only serves to put vulnerable service users at risk and penalise loyal, hard working staff as a result. It also seems reckless to pursue extra savings at the cost of vital front-line services, completely against the local Conservative election promise made last year!
The Council has a legal duty to conduct risk assessments on the vulnerable people it supports. Staff and Trade Unions have not been made aware of any risk assessment that has been conducted for this change. It is also required to undertake Equality Impact Assessments on any changes to practice, again this process does not appear to have been undertaken.
UNISON, GMB and UNITE will continue to campaign against any cuts that not only unfairly disadvantage staff but also put local residents, who need these vital services, at risk.
Messages of support can be sent via Martin Copson