The Liberal Democrats say a crackdown on “perks” such as non-essential staff training, car allowances and hospitality has saved half a million pounds compared to when Labour were in control of the council.
Earlier this week unions were notified that up to 8,500 council employees would face changes to their employment conditions, including pay freezes and removal of sick pay.
Councillor Simon Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat Cabinet member for Finance, said: “Whilst some essential training and transport costs are required by vital front line staff such as care workers for example, the Council is spending too much on other unnecessary employee perks.
“If we are to deal with the reductions in our budget whilst trying to protect vital front line services, then Labour councillors in Sheffield must not block our plans. This might not be unpopular with the Unions, but prioritising spend on front line services instead of employee car allowances and subsistence payments is the right thing to do. Labour should put local taxpayers before their Trade Union paymasters.”
It seems, however, that the unions are less concerned with the cuts to perks, as they are with the size of the hospitality bill at a time when 8,500 council employees are likely to have their contracts re-evaluated.
Speaking to the Star, Mark Keeling, Unite convenor at Sheffield Council, said: “Our members are facing a bleak future. If the gravy train is still running for those at the top, it’s time it hit the buffers.
“It’s not the job of officers to wine and dine using the public purse.
“The council’s job is to provide services and employment.”
The GMB union revealed this week that they had received notice that 8,500 workers at Sheffield City Council would have their contracts renegotiated. The council say that this does not necessarily mean 8,500 will lose their jobs. A spokesperson for the council said yesterday “There haven’t been any figures put on that.
“The Council has not issued staff with redundancy notices and it is misleading to suggest that we have. What we have communicated to the Trade Unions is, that as part of our ongoing negotiations with them, we are following national guidance.
“There is a process that, by law, we have to follow and certain formalities have to be complied with and that includes issuing what is known as a HR1 notice to the Government and shared with the Trade Unions. We are now at that stage.
“This statutory notice is part of the formal and technical process when two parties haven’t yet reached a collective agreement. We are still continuing to meet with the Trade Unions and are still working towards a collective agreement. ”
The changes which are being negotiated with trade unions include the removal of the first three days of a workers’ sick pay, a pay freeze and the offer of career breaks and voluntary early retirement.