By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
Bristol City Council’s chief executive wants a decision by councillors to increase staff mileage rates changed – because it would cost taxpayers nearly £250,000 a year.
In June, members of the human resources committee decided to increase the amount paid to council staff by 12.5 per cent – nearly three times the current rate of inflation.
In doing so they chose the most expensive of four options.
If the inflated hike was applied it would cost the authority £216,000 a year – money the authority says it doesn’t have in the current economic climate.
Increasing the mileage rate by 4.4 per cent would cost an extra £76,000, which is £140,000 less.
Currently staff receive 43.1p per mile. The 4.4 per cent increase would match inflation and bring the city council into line with the Government-recommended rate of 45p per mile.
The 12.5 per cent rise agreed back two months ago would mean staff would receive 48.2p per mile.
Chief executive Jan Ormondroyd has effectively called in this decision on the grounds that it is “hard to justify” and would make it more difficult for the council to meet its £70-million cuts target.
In an unusual move, Mrs Ormondroyd – who earns £189,000 a year – has asked for it to be brought back to committee next month. Now councillors will be given just two choices – either keep the mileage rate the same or increase it to 45p.
The original committee decision was approved by a vote of three to one.
Although the council does not have a record of who voted which way, the Evening Post understands from Councillor Steve Comer, who is on the committee but could not attend the meeting, that Councillor Richard Eddy (Conservative, Bishopsworth) voted against, with Fi Hance (Liberal Democrat, Redland), Mike Wollacott (Labour, Brislington East) and Colin Smith (Labour, Bedminster) voting in favour.
Mr Comer (Lib Dem, Eastville) believes the 45p rate is the best option. He said: “Unfortunately I think there wasn’t an awareness of what the cost impact would be. Now that there is, we’ll see what decision the committee makes.”
In a report to the next committee meeting, Mrs Ormondroyd said: “The rate approved by this committee at its meeting on June 2 will incur additional costs of £216,000 a year, for which no specific financial provision was made.
“In cost, each directorate has to meet these costs from elsewhere in its 2011/12 budget.”
“Building this level of additional cost into the base budget is hard to justify as they will have an adverse affect upon the budget reductions which the council will be required to introduce for 2012 and beyond.”
Mike Wollacott, chairman of the HR committee, said: “As chair of the HR committee I can confirm we discussed mileage allowance at our last meeting in July, and it was agreed an increase in allowance that reflects the actual cost of fuel was not unreasonable.
“There was no strong debate against this proposals, although concern was expressed over who in the council was in receipt of the payments.
“We were very concerned that employees of the council would be expected to effectively subsidise their own job, due to the increases in petrol prices, especially for those on lower incomes, and felt that this was an issue in need of address. Unfortunately the figures for which pay bands were in receipt of these payments were not available to us at that time.
“I am aware this issue has been returned to the HR committee for further discussion, and I have asked for a detailed breakdown of which pay scales are receiving these payments. “Consideration will then be given to the issue and hopefully a cost effective, but equitable solution will be found, especially for those on lower pay bands.”