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Sevenoaks council braces for strike action over pay demands

Sevenoaks District Council has expressed its concern over rising inflation and the impact it could have on staff wages.

Local government employees have their wages negotiated between employers and unions, in a process mediated by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC).

Sevenoaks council cast a worried eye on pay demands
Sevenoaks council cast a worried eye on pay demands

Last year, the NJC offered an increase of 1.75% which was widely criticised by multiple unions as being “insignificant.”

This has led to fears that strike action from council workers could come in the future.

A draft risk assessment from Sevenoaks council predicts a 2% pay increase for council workers would cost an additional £338,000.

On Tuesday the council’s Finance and Investment Advisory Committee met to discuss the risk and assumptions over a 10-year budget.

At the meeting, the head of finance, Alan Mitchell, outlined the risks and made it clear the council was taking high inflation into account.

Cllr Tony Clayton
Cllr Tony Clayton

However, Cllr Tony Clayton was still left concerned: “According to the Bank of England, we are looking at inflation of 6% by April.

“It effectively says if we accept what the NJC has said, our staff are going to see a substantive real pay cut.

“The inflation rate may peak at 6% in April, May or June but it’s not coming back to 2% any time soon. I think that is a risk which could impact quite severely on all our services."

Mr Mitchell clarified that while an offer had been made pay negotiations for next hadn't yet started and said: “In reality if a staff pay roll across the board was very significant it would be out of line with council tax increases."

Meanwhile,the chairman of the committee, Cllr John Grint, said it was a national problem and not unique to Sevenoaks. He said: “The offer on the table at the minute is 1.75% but the unions are pressing for substantially more than that and as I understand it they have threatened strike action.”

Cllr John Grint
Cllr John Grint

While councillors discussed the risks of the budget any final decisions will be made by the council’s Cabinet at a later date.

Instead the committee attached a note of caution to the budget report detailing their concerns over inflation which will be read to the Cabinet.

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