The Green leader of Brighton & Hove City Council Jason Kitcat recently mentioned that the pay bill for Brighton & Hove Council is £180m.
By this he is referring to the total "controllable" wage bill. i.e that which is not subject to national agreement. (The total budget for the council is £750m)
We have also heard that around 6,000 of the total 8,000 workforce receive allowances. And also that 80% of these staff will see no change to their pay.
Of the other 20%, some of the hardest hit are the 260 refuse & parks workers at the CityClean & CityParks departments. They are 4.3% of the total B&H staff with a total wage bill of around £5m. Which is just 2.8% of the total overall wage bill of the council.
So, these 4.3% of staff receive just 2.8% of the wage bill. i.e. they are some of the lowest paid and are facing cuts of up to £4,000 per annum, with the average loss around £2,000 on top of losing 8 days from their holiday allowance.
So what about those remaining staff in other departments that are supposedly to gain from this?
Apart from the few snippets of information above, Kitcat has said as little as possible. So it is impossible to know who is benefiting and on what salary.
The suspicion has to be that this silence is because a lot of those benefiting are on higher salaries, some much higher. (See final postscript at end for more on pay differentials and pay ratios).
What we know about low paid workers benefiting from this is miniscule. The Greens are shouting loudly about the 25p hourly increase to £7.45 per hour of the lowest grades but this adds just £8 per week to the lowest paid full time worker's pay. And this decision was taken long ago and has nothing to do with the present dispute.
Welcome though this small increase is to the very lowest paid, it is a minor change to the pay bill.
As the Greens have also let slip that 10% of the total remaining staff will "lose a little", this gives us a clue to how many are "benefitting" from this minor change at the lowest rung.
As they have not defined what "a little" means, I assume they are including some of the 4.3% of staff losing heavily from this. I can only assume that below the Green spun figure of "£25 per week loss" which is 8% of pay for some, is their definition of "a little". So lets be generous & say a third of the 4% of staff losing big amounts in CityClean/Parks are in this Green spin defined category.
Even the Greens have admitted 250 staff are losing "big" amounts. Of this 250 some staff are outside of CityClean/Parks. This means that "only" 4% of staff overall are losing "big" amounts by the Greens own spun definition and 6% are benefiting. This allows the Greens to spin that "there are more winners than "big" losers".
But obviously not all of these "winners" is going to be low paid. Without the figures we can only guess. But let's be generous to the Greens and say most of these winners are low paid.
But as already mentioned above, these low paid "winners" are only gaining £8 per week. Even if all these "winners" were the lowest paid this would only amount to 260 workers getting a £450 gain each year which comes to less than £120,000 or just 0.07% increase in the total wage bill.
Compared to the savings from the 250 most affected by the big pay cuts, at an average of £2,000 loss each, that is £0.5m or 0.3% cut to the total wage bill.
Then, according to the Greens a further 600 are losing "a little", lets estimate this at £500 per head, which is £0.3m or 0.2% cut off the total wage bill.
So, overall that's less than 0.1% added to the wage bill & 0.5% cut from the wage bill. A cut of 0.4% overall.
And there is a further twist. Kitcat has said that even excluding the compensation package "the overall wage bill is going up".
He hasn't said by how much, but this year the government has announced a 1% across the board pay rise for the public sector. This doesn't help those hit with the 10% to 25% cuts to their individual wages because it has already been factored in to make their loss look less.
So, what's the betting that the overall rise in the wage bill is less than 1%? The 1% advised by the government minus the 0.4% overall cut. This leaves a 0.6% rise.
Because it is only 6% of staff that are seeing their wages massacred by 8% to 25%, Kitcat can hide that in the overall budget and still be correctly claiming that the wage bill is going up overall. Sneaky.
What this means in practise is those on £30k to £140k are seeing increases while those on £17k-£19k are seeing their pay massacred & those right at the bottom are only gaining a pittance.
Is this what the Greens signed up for when they joined their party?
The Greens have added a social justice clause to their constitution. "Fair is worth fighting for" they say. Well they have certainly got a fight on their hands and a lot of them are on the wrong side!
If the Green council continues with this then one side or the other is going to be destroyed. Either the Greens will turn into union bashing Tories sacking striking workers & splitting their own party or they will back down. There is no imbetween. Workers already feel they have nothing to lose as their livelyhoods are being trashed and they know their cause is just. So Greens cannot assume this will quietly go away.
If social justice and fairness mean anything surely it means that if there has to be pay cuts you start at the top and work down. If the Greens want to see their party continue they had better start practising what they preach.
PS. I freely admit that some of these figures are ballpark figures based on the limited information provided by the Green administration. If Jason Kitcat wants to point out any inaccuracies, we would all welcome detailed information he is willing to provide. In the absence of that we can only assume the figures are accurate. Certainly they would need to be out by an order of magnitude to invalidate the argument and I really cannot see how that is possible.
PPS Finally, I'd like to answer a question I think a lot of people must be asking.
Why are the Green administration doing this?
Well first of all, I don't think Jason Kitcat is some sort of pay slashing green ogre beamed in from Tory Central Office. Though I can understand why a lot of people might think that.
I think he is a technocrat, he might even admit that himself. A technocrat is a high level bureaucrat and I'll even admit, he seems quite an efficient one.
He also, like most councillors, trusts his council officers.
So when they came to him with a legal opinion (that they argue has to be kept secret) that something had to be done about pay, he went about efficiently getting this past his party without much question or debate. The faceless bureaucrats had spoken and could not be denied. There was only leeway in the minor detail.
So, the Greens (with one noble exception) naively trusted their leader and voted to hand the power to cut pay to the faceless bureaucrats without apparently understanding the implications.
So, this gives the Greens an excuse, but they'd be wise not to try and use it. They could hide behind the faceless bureaucrats and wring their hands in anguish. But if they do that they will become yet another party that no-one can trust on anything at all.
I'm not sure of the technicalities of getting the pay decision back to the elected full council (and some accountability), but I am told it is possible. The Greens had better do it and fast. Every day that goes by they are losing credibility.
Kitcat must feel backed into a corner and unable to change course because of his loyalty to his bureaucrats.
So, this brings me on to why the faceless bureaucrats have come up with such an unfair way of sorting this issue.
The key is "pay differentials". First another bit of spin from Kitcat. He likes to say he has reduced the pay ratio between top & bottom from "over 12 to 1, to just over 10 to 1". This sounds impressive but is pretty easily achieved by changing just 1 salary out of 8,000.
The Chief Executive has famously took a pay cut from £163,000 a year to £141,000. While welcome, this has no impact on the other 7,999 employees. Worse still, she has took on an assistant on £80,000. So it hasn't even reduced the pay bill!
Also, to try and claim that this is in any way comparable with people on a £17,000-£19,000 salary facing a 20% cut is deeply offensive. No one on Penny Thompson's salary faces hardship.
Now we come on to another key piece of spin. Perhaps the most important of all.
Some Greens including Kitcat are claiming it would cost £30m and bankrupt the council to put this right without cutting pay.
For that £30m figure to be correct, every single one of the 6,000 employees that the council control wages for, would have to see a rise in pay of £5,000. Ridiculous. It would cost £2.5m, 1.4% of wage bill for the 6% of staff underpaid to be equal paid. A pay freeze & £50k cap would easily provide that.