The Local Government Pay Commission report

The Local Government Pay Commission (LGPC) was set up earlier in
the year as a result of industrial action in the public sector by
the unions for a 6 per cent pay rise instead of a 3 per cent offer
by the employers. It took evidence in spring of 2003 and reported
in late October. One of the remits of the LGPC was:  “To
establish the extent and causes of recruitment and retention
difficulties in local government, and to advise on their
relationship to pay and rewards.”

Employers’ organisations and unions welcomed the report.
The report supported existing national bargaining structures, which
do allow local authorities some leeway in offering higher grades or
pay in response to local shortages. It came out against moves to
regional pay structures. And while it rejected increases to minimum
pay it came out strongly in support of equal pay between women and

Employers Organisation executive director Charles Nolda said
that equal pay was a key area for collaboration between the
employers and the unions. “It is necessary to do everything
we can to try to close the gender pay gap,” he said.

GMB national secretary Mick Graham said it “lays to rest any
misconceived arguments which advocate regional pay”.

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “The
commission agrees with us that employers and the government must do
better on training and development, address the gender pay gap, and
not use casual contracts as a cost-cutting measure. Otherwise local
government will cement its place as the poor relation of the public

But Wakefield said the commission’s decision to reject Unison’s
call for a minimum rate of £6.50 per hour for public sector
workers failed to address the union’s argument that low pay at all
levels of local government leads to recruitment and retention

It looked at pay in both professional posts such as social work
and lower paid work such as home care assistants and whether low
pay was affecting the ability of local authorities to recruit and
retain staff.

The LGPC was at pains to point out its dissatisfaction with the
current state of recruitment and retention data, including job
vacancy data, But it nevertheless accepted that ”there is
therefore a considerable degree of consensus among stakeholders at
national and local level, based on consistent evidence, that there
are specific, national recruitment difficulties for some
occupations where local government is the main employer.”
These included social workers, home carers and residential care

Professional staff

It did accept that pay and other rewards were an issue behind
recruitment difficulties among certain professionals and that this
had led to a “bidding war” among local authorities. In
parts of London, local authorities had formed consortia to provide
the same wages and conditions. It also accepted that retention was
a problem “there are some occupations and service areas which
have comparatively high turnover rates. This is the case among
social workers, especially in child care”.

But the LGPC stopped short of recommending a general salary
increase among social workers to ease these difficulties. It did
support an increase in London weighting to that of other public
sector employees: “Given that the relatively high costs of
living and working in London are the same for all public service
employees, it seems sensible to us that consideration be given to
aligning the different rates of London weighting across the
different parts of the public sector with defensible rationales for
any remaining variation in rates.”

Non-professional staff

The trade unions suggested to the LGPC that it back a local
government minimum hourly wage of £6.50 to enable workers to
“sustain an adequate living standard without resort to
in-work benefits”.

Yet the LGPC said it “is not persuaded by this argument
for a £6.50 minimum and does not consider that its remit
extends to making social policy/taxation recommendations”. It
seems the main reason the LGPC could not support the unions’
claim was that it found that: “local government pay levels do
not appear to be greatly out of line with comparators for the same
occupations.” For example, it cites NHS ancilliaries and
charity sector workers who have fared less well than local
authority employees. Care assistants enjoy higher earnings in the
public sector than the private.

It went on to say: “Our assessment of the evidence is
that, while there are indeed geographical and occupational pockets
where it is difficult to recruit among this range of non
professional employees at the lower end of the pay spine, these
difficulties are not universal and do not of themselves support the
case made by the unions for a general minimum pay

Nevertheless, the LGPC did accept: “That compulsory
competitive tendering and Best Value placed a downward pressure on
the pay and conditions of the lowest paid and most vulnerable
workers in local government and adversely affected the gender pay

Overall, the report did achieve some consensus between both
sides, mainly in regard to what it did not suggest such as refusing
to weaken national bargaining. However by offering no national
plan, especially in regards to low pay, the existing difficulties
in recruitment and retention are set to continue in local

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