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Thursday, July 17, 2008


I have a huge amount of sympathy for striking Council workers, many of them are underpaid and work in often stressful situations. However, I recognise that local Councils do not have the money to offer them more.

A derisory 2.4% increase in the grant from the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government this year left Welsh Councils with little choice but to make substantial savings and to restrict their pay offer to local government workers.

This reality has not stopped some Assembly Members jumping on the bandwagon and declaring their support for the current strike leading to a predictable reaction from both Trade Unions and employers.

Yesterday Carwyn Jones, Leader of the House, and Plaid Cymru Local Government spokesperson, Dr Dai Lloyd spoke at a rally of Unison members in Cardiff, telling them a greater value should be placed on their work. And Cynon Valley AM Christine Chapman issued a statement offering her support. Plaid Cymru AM, Bethan Jenkins has also written on her blog that she is planning to visit Unison's Bridgend picket line today. She says that it is 'unacceptable that those in the public sector are not been rewarded the pay rise they deserve'.

All four of these AMs are members of the governing party in Wales. I voted against the local government settlement because it short-changed Councils and left them without sufficient resources to deliver basic services and give their workers a decent pay increase. Carwyn Jones, Dai Lloyd, Christine Chapman and Bethan Jenkins all supported that settlement. By playing to the public gallery now they have marked themselves out as hypocrites. Isn't it about time they put their money where their mouth is?

As someone who has been on the picket line for the last two days, I can tell you that the strikers are well aware of where the problem is with their salaries-London. WAG can only pass on what they have been given and the current settlement is so tight that there is no spare cash to help wages.
Consequently Peter, the Plaid and Labour AMs are not hypocrites as it was not their decision. I note that there were no Lib Dem AMs to be seen at todays Senedd meeting or yesterday's rally, just Labour and Plaid AMs. Also, the only AM to visit our County Hall picket line was a Plaid one, with the Lib Dems nowhere to be seen.

With your Westminster leader now talking of tax cuts in order to catch Tory votes, perhaps you could explain just how a Lib Dem London Government would fund better Local Government salaries?

Now that's hypocrisy!
No Ian, hypocrisy is when you say one thing and do another and that is precisely what Labour and Plaid AMs have been doing on this issue.

You will get a costed manifesto with Lib Dem proposals but you will note that we have not promised to increase local government wages beyond inflation because to make such a promise without knowing how it will be paid for is misleading and dishonest.

It is a nice try of Plaid trying to blame Westminster but you and your Labour allies were the ones who decided that local councils in Wales should have a below inflation increase not Gordon Brown. There was actually a 3.4% inncrease in the grant from London to the One Wales Government and yet you passed on only 2.4% to local Councils. If you had given them the same increase as WAG then they might be in a better position to pay local government workers more.

And let us not forget that while you are busy blaming London Labour, it was the Westminster Government that gave English Councils a 4% increase in their grant, putting Plaid's record to shame.

As it happens I was not invited to the rally but if I had been I would not have been as dishonest as those Labour and Plaid AMs who spoke and gave the impression that they supported the workers when they were voting completely the opposite way.

P.S. In accordance with my stated policy this is the only comment I have published to this post because Ian put his name to it. If the other anonymous posters care to try again using their own name I will happily post and respond to their comments. I do not publish abusive comments if they cannot be attributed to anybody.
What is interesting about the comments of 'Ian' is that he seems to be hinting at the end of England and Wales pay bargaining for local government workers. As it stands at the moment the local authority line of employees pay is effectively decided by the LGA with perhaps one Welsh representative on the HR committee. Until the May elections I believe that the Welsh representative was Andrew Crump who was the Tory Leader of Monmouthshire. At the moment the LGA has more Tory representatives than Labour. It is frankly rubbish to suggest that somehow the local authority leaders are controlled by 'London Labour'. The simple fact is that as far as the employers are concerned this is the best offer on the table given the other pressures that local government faces. Hardly surprising given that about 70% of local government expenditure is tied up in salaries. Of course the employers could offer more but it would be paid for not in increased council taxers but in more cuts and more job losses. In any case why should the Tory councillors who dominate the LGA offer more when it is clear from the strike figures that their authorities were hardly touched by the strike. Out of 25000 schools in England it looks as if less than 1000 were closed by the strike.In the south east only 3.6% of staff went on strike. It would be interesting to see how many staff in Westminster and Wandsworth councils have been on strike in the past two days. In a democratic society everyone is entitled to withdraw their Labour. Although with only one in seven Unison members voting for action and the GMB agreeing to the offer the union side seems to have a pretty weak hand. But no one should be under an illusion that the success of the strike in some of the South Wales authorities will have any effect on the attitude of the employers. As for the politicians if the comments in the press are anything to go by they seem to have ended up with the worst of both worlds.
Actually, the GMB members were never balloted and this may explain why they have lost hundreds of members in recent days. Unison have gained 5 members to every one lost in Wales due to this action, at the last count. The percentage of members who voted yes is of course based on the total membership and not the ones who actually voted. Such twisting of the figures reminds me very much of the anti-devolutionists when quoting the figures for the 97 referendum.
After looking at your defence Peter, you still appear not to be prepared to accept that WAG had no other funding to give for salaries. The needs basis that WAG has to prioritise actually means that there is less money to go around in Wales say for education than there is in England. If you don't believe me, ask the teaching unions who are painfully aware of this. If you still believe that Plaid and Labour are hypocrites, then please tell me where you intend to find the cash from the WAG settlement, to cover the costs of the increased salaries?

Countless services would have to be slashed to do this, due to the dire Westminster settlement. Consequently, your accusation does not hold water as there was simply no other funding available.
I only wish that Wales had funding based on a needs based formula, which could well equate to 2 billion a year extra.

On the issue of regional pay levels, the anon you allowed makes a valid point and if Wales had the option to pay its public sector workers a living wage, then I would support it under the current circumstances-as Plaid did with the nurses. However, the opposite is currently happening at UK level with Civil Servants, who are getting less in Wales than parts of England.

On the issue of Lib Dem tax cuts Peter, this is clearly a huge embarrassment for you and the party in Wales, particularly as your leader has not actually established where the money would be saved. Is this the right wing swing that many of you feared after your man was pipped at the leadership post and how will you spin it differently in a Wales so bereft of media?

On another issue, are you having a sniff at the leadership? It's about time a Swansea jack was leading one of the Welsh parties.
I allowed the anonymous comment precisely because it was constructive and not abusive.

The point is Ian that the Labour Plaid Government did not pass on even the 3.4% increase they themselves got. If they had then my criticism may have less resonance. Instead they wasted it on gimmicks. It may have been a tight settlement but you have taken the responsibility of government and so you have to take the blame when you get things wrong. You cannot just blame Westminster every time.

Like you I am opposed to regional pay. I know how Wales would lose out under such a policy.

I do not understand how you can say that the Lib Dem policy of tax cuts is an embarrassment. I fully support this policy. It would increase the disposable income of a lot of low and middle income earners including many Unison members. Doesnt sound very right wing to me, it would actually be redistributive. Surely you would welcome this. It will of course all be costed by the time people have to vote on it.

Finally, despite my current Facebook status I will not be a candidate for the leadership of the Welsh Lib Dems.
Peter has once again highlighted the hypocrisy of the labour regime.
Well done to him!
My own view talking to many businesses on my travels is that they are making less money because the economy has contracted and there is less disposable income in peoples pockets, with higher fuel costs etc.
To be honest i have more sympathy for the unemployed who are very much surplus to requirement in Wales than the civil servants who are getting a pay rise marginally less than inflation.
I think we do have some sympathy with some local authority workers, but as the Barry Gem pointed out this week, the vale Council (pop 100,000) now has 63 staff earning in excess of £60,000 pa, and there are quite a number earning over £100,000. What can they all be doing? This is a tiny authority in UK terms!
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