In six out of the UK’s twenty major cities, council employees are applying for short-term loans to help them meet unexpected expenses, pay everyday bills, and fund special occasions, according to leading UK credit brokerage CashLady.
The statistics from CashLady’s City Index measures the number of applications, the average loan requests, and the average monthly income of applicants across the UK’s largest population centres. It also records why applicants are applying for assistance and the organisation they work for.
In Glasgow, Bradford, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, and Bristol, council employees are in the “Top 3” of those who apply for short-term loans. This has led to growing concerns that local authority workers are not earning enough to meet the cost of living in Britain.
Since the election of the coalition government in 2010, the amount paid to local authorities by central government has fallen by 26%, according to Fullfact.org. Although councils also raise money by levying of the council tax and non-domestic business rates, this has not made up the shortfall in budgets caused by the falling central government grant.
Shortfalls in their operating budgets have caused many local authorities to use the savings they had built up over decades to continue to provide services. However, these funds are being spent at such a rate that one in ten councils will have depleted their entire savings within three years, according to the National Audit Office and as reported in the Independent.
Effect on council workers
Across local authorities, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost since 2010 as councils seek to live within their means. For the staff that remain, those earning over £21,000 a year had their pay frozen for two years in 2010 and since 2013, pay rises have been capped nationally at 1% – less than the rate of inflation, according to Public Sector Executive. The public sector pay cap was lifted in September 2017 as reported on BBC News.
Speaking to the Express newspaper, Jim Kennedy, national officer with the Unite union, stated that council staff pay had been cut by 21% since 2010 when inflation is taken into account.
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One in 10 council workers now are paid below the living wage, according to UNISON the union. Union bosses are calling for councils to pay staff no less than £8.45 an hour (£9.75 in London), which they contend will “lift more than 60,000 cleaners, library assistants, residential and home care workers and other local authority staff out of poverty”.
In Glasgow, one of the cities listed in the study by CashLady, and across Scotland, three unions are calling for a 6.5% pay rise which included “an element of restoration” following years of the wider public pay freeze. Speaking to BBC News, Johanna Baxter, head of bargaining at UNISON, stated that “(o)ur local government workers members have suffered a real terms loss in pay over the past ten years of some 15%.”
In June 2017, unions demanded a 5% pay increase for all council employees from 2018-2019. This was met with a counter-offer from National Employers (the body representing local councils) offering a 2% pay rise in 2018-2019 and a further 2% increase in 2019-2020, equivalent to an overall rise of 5.6%.
The GMB union initially rejected the offer however the proposal was put to a ballot by Unison members. Although narrowly rejected by the majority of members, Unison “reluctantly” changed its recommendation to turn down the offer because a majority of branches and regions accepted it. The GMB is expected to follow suit, according to LGC Plus.