DCLG to let councils borrow more to deliver equal pay

Local government minister John Healey has promised further support for councils in England in implementing equal pay, in a move welcomed by public sector unions and town halls.

He said councils would be allowed to bid to borrow money during 2008-9 to fund the costs of equal pay settlements.

The initiative follows last year’s allocation of £500m in borrowing rights to 46 authorities, which allowed one-off back-payments to around 100,000 employees.

Healey said further details would follow shortly and authorities would be invited to bid by the end of May.

Councils were supposed to correct longstanding inequalities between male-dominated and female-dominated occupations by April 2007, but a majority missed the deadline.

Last month Local Government Employers, which represents town halls on employment issues, said just 35.5% of English and Welsh councils had implemented equal pay, which unions blamed on a lack of government funding.

The issue has already caused a number of industrial disputes across the UK, with Birmingham Council the latest to be hit by strike action in a one-day stoppage yesterday.

GMB national secretary Brian Strutton said, “The main obstacle to introducing equal pay is cost, and most local authorities simply did not set aside enough money to fund the task.”

“That’s why we’re really pleased that the government has listened to GMB’s call for additional funding.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said the announcement would leave fewer councils with an excuse for not implementing equal pay.

Steve Bullock, chair of LGE, described Healey’s pledge as an “excellent step”.

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