Clegg’s low pay jibe at Labour

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SHEFFIELD’S ruling Labour councillors have been attacked by Nick Clegg for ‘dropping’ a policy to give the authority’s lowest-paid staff an extra £250 each year.

The payment was made for staff paid below £21,000-a-year, under the old Lib Dem administration’s budget for 2011/12 – and Mr Clegg said it was supposed to happen on an annual basis.

But papers setting out the council’s financial plans for 2011/12 – including cuts of at least £48 million – do not include a pay rise next year.

Mr Clegg said: “I’ve had meetings with some of the country’s leading trade union representatives, who recognised that Sheffield was the only big council in the UK to provide the £250 payment - and that it was what they wanted.

“I think they will be horrified to hear that the new Labour council is dropping the commitment to help some of the lowest paid, when they are taking money from reserves to pay for extra spending elsewhere.”

New commitments include restoring funding for 10 police community support officers, bringing back free rat catching and funding apprenticeships.

Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance, Coun Bryan Lodge, said: “The coalition government imposed a two-year pay freeze for the public sector last year but announced a proposal to award workers earning under £21,000 with a payment of £250.

“They subsequently made no funding available for this proposal, nor did they follow it up and make it binding on local authorities.

“Sheffield City Council proposed to pay the £250 to these lower paid workers to cushion the blow against the impact of a pay freeze for 2011/12 in two lump sums - one in June and the balance in December. 

“This approach was discussed with the old Lib Dem leader, Coun Paul Scriven, and agreed to be taken forward.  A collective agreement on this was achieved with the Trade Unions, which was explicit that the payment would apply for the 2011/12 period only.

“It’s a bit rich for Mr Clegg to be complaining about this decision as it was made by the former Lib Dem administration and I find it shocking that he’s criticising Sheffield whilst not even making a whimper about other Liberal Democrat-run councils who haven’t made any payment.”