Tag Archives: expenses

Council to launch inquiry into £6m expenses bill; 8,500 council staff to have contracts renegotiated

Council Leader Paul Scriven has promised an inquiry after it was revealed that the Council’s employee expenses bill totalled £6m for last year.

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.

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Clegg’s Sheffield home up for sale. Will he keep his promise to the taxpayer?

The Star reports this morning that Nick Clegg’s Ecclesall constituency home is up for sale. In the run up to the election, the paper notes, Mr Clegg told Andrew Neil that any profit made from the sale of his home “will go straight back to the taxpayer.”

Several months prior to the Andrew Neil interview, I spoke with Mr Clegg on this subject at a Lib Dem event at the University of Sheffield. This was shortly after he had agreed to pay back £910 of his £3900 gardening expenses claim, and he said a little more about his constituency home:

As you know, Sir Thomas Legg, who has conducted this retrospective review of MPs expenses, has retrospectively applied a number of rules of thumb, if you like, which he felt should have been in place when MPs made their claims. He has come up with a rule which says that…I forget the limit. He has come up with an annual limit of what he thinks MPs should have paid on maintaining their gardens and their properties. And in hindsight then calculated how much should have been spent for each MP. I could have quibbled about that. A lot of MPs are. I could have said I don’t understand the logic of retrospective rules. I could have argued that as it happens the home that I have here, in Ecclesall, on Knowle Lane was in a complete derelict state, the garden was an eyesore. My view of the money that I use, your money, taxpayers money doing my job is very, very simple. The home that I occupy, subsidised by the taxpayer is not my home. It’s on loan to me from you, the taxpayer. That’s why I think I’m pretty much unique in British politics in saying when I sell that property, any net gain goes back to you, the taxpayer. It’s not my money.

And that’s always the attitude, and that’s why I thought it was right for me to keep the garden in basic good nick. It was an eyesore for the neighbours otherwise. Sir Thomas Legg thought otherwise, but the last thing people want is politicians quibbling about this kind of thing. So I payed the money back. That’s the story and that’s the most candid and honest answer I can give to you on that.

Neither the estate agent, nor asking price has been revealed.

Mr Clegg has also said that he believes it is time to stop MPs from buying and selling property altogether, perhaps suggesting that he will take a rental property in his constituency after the sale of his home.

I assume Mr Clegg will shortly be implementing a procedure to return the gain on the sale of his property to the taxpayer, although how he intends to do this remains to be seen. If he keeps his word, it will set an interesting precedent, and perhaps rescue his credibility as a man at the forefront of “the new politics”.