The Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council – which now employs more than 20 staff and is about to impose the highest-ever council-tax precept on local residents – is to upgrade the annual leave and holiday entitlement of its employees.
The proposed new arrangements for staff annual leave were discussed in last night’s meeting of the council’s Policy and Finance Committee.
Councillors considered a report by the Town Clerk Emma Boylen which stated that Penarth Town Council had, historically, allocated annual leave entitlement “less favourably” than the Vale of Glamorgan Council. She said her report aimed to “redress the council’s position” .
CURRENT LEAVE ARRANGEMENTS : Currently Penarth Council staff who have less than 5 years’ service receive 25 days a year of Annual Leave. Those with more than 5 years’ service get 29 days of Annual Leave .
PROPOSED NEW LEAVE ARRANGEMENTS: Under the new proposals, staff on “Grades A to F” with less than 5 years’ service will get 25 days a year of annual leave. . Those with more than 5 years’ service get 30 days of annual leave . Staff on “Grades G to K ” with less than 5 years’ service will get 27 days a year of annual leave. Those with more than 5 years’ service will get 32 days of annual leave.
The proposals amount to a 10% increase in annual leave entitlement for those on senior grades with more than 5 years of service and are said to be the same as annual leave entitlement for staff in Cardiff Council.
The report contained the caveat that the new deal is still not as favourable as that for staff in some other councils in Wales – such as Rhondda Cynon Taff.
[PDN NOTE: The legendary Labour-controlled Rhondda Cynon Taff Council serves one of the poorest areas in Wales. Its senior officers receive 35 days of annual leave every year and the Chief Executive is paid £143,000 a year – more than the UK Prime Minister Theresa May].
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he hesitated to speak on this issue with council staff present in the Council Chamber. However Cllr Ernest pointed out that Penarth Town Council [which is categorised as a community council] was comparing itself with a unitary authority.
Cllr Ernest pointed out that Penarth Council was NOT a unitary authority – and was under “a lot of pressure from people who think that our budgets are quite high – and that we also employ a considerable number of staff compared with some other authorities”
Cllr Ernest said he would be the first to say that he wanted staff to have “fair and equal pay” but the council should not consider itself to be a unitary authority in the way it operated and said “This has come about really from bringing in the unions last year“. Other community councils, he said, employed “just a handful of people”.
The Town Clerk said the report had been prepared following “consultation with the Strategic Review Group”.
[PDN Note: The so-called “Strategic Review Group” is a secret council committee, the meetings of which are not open to the press and public and which excludes most councillors . The schedules of its meetings are not published and the minutes of its meetings are not available to the public. ]
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said if the new Annual Leave entitlement was going to be challenged “We should really ask staff not to be here” [ i.e. not be present in the council chamber]. He said “the position is that we follow the national terms and conditions of service as the “principle councils” .
Cllr Roberts said “If Cllr Ernest thinks we are suffering because we brought the unions in…”. .His remarks were interrupted by an interjection from Cllr Ernest, but Cllr Roberts continued – saying that trade unions had played a “central” role in Penarth Council for many years – “and I welcome it because it is a better way to have collective agreements”.
Cllr Roberts said the new holiday arrangements from Penarth Council staff “still aren’t hugely generous The Civil Service is very much more generous than this and there are other councils which are more generous”. Cllr Roberts – [ who was a director of human relations for Merthyr Borough Council] said that, as a former local government employee, he had “enjoyed considerably better leave entitlement”. He moved approval of the enhanced annual leave entitlement for Penarth Council staff. His motion was seconded by Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell).
Finance committee chairman Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) asked if anyone wished to speak against the motion.
Cllr Ernest said he had simply commented earlier on the point about the comparison with unitary authorities – he had not said that he was against the report.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) [who is a member of the “Strategic Review Group”] said “There are no direct financial implications in what we are trying to do – so it won’t cost us any more money”.
The majority of councillors voted in favour of the enhanced annual leave for council staff.
The new deal on staff leave is subject to what is described as “a collective agreement” – and is due to take effect from April 1st 2017 .