‘It’s simply a pay cut’ - Lib Dem leader councillor Lucy Nethsingha slams Cambs County Council for Christmas to New Year ‘unpaid leave’ cuts

Lib Dem leader councillor Lucy Nethsingha slams Cambs County Council for Christmas to New Year unpai

Lib Dem leader councillor Lucy Nethsingha slams Cambs County Council for Christmas to New Year unpaid leave cuts - Credit: Archant

The highest paid workers at Cambridgeshire County Council are being forced to take three days’ mandatory unpaid leave between Christmas and New Year – to help save the council £900,000 towards its £5.2million deficit.

A clause in employees’ contracts means members of staff have to take three days’ unpaid leave “if the financial situation made it necessary”. However the lowest paid members of staff – those earning less than £25,000 - will not be affected.

There are also a number of “essential services” that are not affected by the closure on December 27, 28 and 31 including residential services, social care adult and children’s safeguarding, hospital discharge teams, drug and alcohol support, coroner’s services and registrars (for pre booked events).

It comes as the council needs to find £14.6million in savings during the current financial year.

£8 million of the savings have been found – but the council say “time is running out to find the additional £5.2million”.

For those workers affected, the money will be deducted from staff salaries in 12 equal amounts starting from November – a loss of 1.2 per cent from their annual salary.

Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Lucy Nethsingha however said it is “deeply unfair”, calling the unpaid leave “a pay cut”.

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She said: “I think it is deeply unfair. Christmas can be a tough time, and not everyone wants to spend time with their family.

“I can see why they might want to close the offices but with staff perfectly able to work from home insisting they take unpaid leave is simply a pay cut.”

A Cambs County Council spokesman said: “Some years ago the council negotiated with trade unions a clause in all Cambridgeshire County Council employees’ contracts to impose a period of up to three days unpaid leave if the financial situation made it necessary – and this year for the first time it has.

“Therefore – except for some essential services - Cambridgeshire County Council will close on December 27, 28 and 31, and all but the lowest paid staff (those earning under £25k per year) will take these days as unpaid leave.

“This will contribute £900k to closing the budget gap, and is the saving the council could otherwise achieve by cutting around 40 full time posts.

“The council has only introduced this measure as a last resort - and to support its hard working staff the unpaid leave costs will be deducted in twelve equal amounts from staff salaries starting from November – a total amount roughly equating to 1.2% of their annual pay.

“Work continues to set next year’s council budget and to bridge the estimated £20m gap for 2019/20 with proposals being finalised to be discussed at committees during October and November and, all savings proposals endeavour to protect services and jobs.”

A full list of the Cambs County Council services that are affected will be published later in the month.