Dispute over 'extra' payments for staff at Worcestershire County Council

County Hall, the HQ of Worcestershire County Council

County Hall, the HQ of Worcestershire County Council

First published in Local Bromsgrove Advertiser: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

MORE than £500,000 has been paid out by Worcestershire County Council for staff to 'act up' while their bosses were off work over the last three years.

Your Worcester News can reveal how most of the rewards have taken place during a period when the workforce has had to endure pay freezes.

Under council policy, if staff carry out work "outside the scope" of their normal roles for more than four weeks they can get extra payments on top of their standard salary.

In 2013/14, 241 people got a total of £168,417 in the so-called 'honorarium' payments, with the average sum being £699.

The previous year 178 people got it, with £146,694 being handed out, an average of £824.

In 2011/12, 156 staff got a total of £185,320, with the average sum £1,188.

In 2011 and 2012 workers had to suffer pay freezes and widespread job cuts.

The rewards included staff who took on extra duties to work on particular projects, and those doing additional tasks while vacancies were unfilled.

The council says the only alternative way of managing the workload would have been to hire more expensive agency staff.

Councillor Peter McDonald, the leader of the county's Labour group, has called for an in-house investigation into phasing it out.

"While hundreds of employees have faced the axe, existing employees have had their hours and job descriptions changed with no increases in salaries," he said.

"Services have slashed to the bone and in some instances have gone altogether yet the council has spent over £500,000 in three years on honorariums for the chosen few.

"It's money that would have been better spent on much-need services.

"It is outrageous that a council could be so out of touch with reality."

A spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance said: "During the recession many private sector workers had to take on extra responsibilities and work harder for the same pay to help their companies survive."

The council says the payments are a "perfectly reasonable" way of compensating staff who do extra work.

A bid to stage an investigation into it failed after a Labour motion was rejected during a full council meeting by 30 votes to 15 earlier this month.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "These 'honoraria' are a very efficient way of managing staff, they are temporary payments for additional duties.

"We use our staff because they are readily available, familiar with the work, need very little extra training and can start immediately.

"The alternative is to pay agency staff, which actually would have cost us considerably more than the £500,000."

A spokesman for the council said: "It is important to emphasise the payment of honorariums is subject to a robust authorisation process and requires them to be reviewed on a regular basis.

"The council believes its use of honorariums is proportionate and can help to reduce expenditure on other staffing costs such as agency workers."

Comments (11)

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10:15am Sat 31 May 14

green49 says...

While hundreds of employees have faced the axe, existing employees have had their hours and job descriptions changed with no increases in salaries,"
THAT is absolutley right and no discussion about it either.

"Services have slashed to the bone and in some instances have gone altogether yet the council has spent over £500,000 in three years on honorariums for the chosen few.

"It's money that would have been better spent on much-need services.

"It is outrageous that a council could be so out of touch with reality."

Councillor Adrian Hardman is the one to complain too, i know of a couple of people who were paid a small amout to take on additional work after redundancies, thats been cut now and i dont blame the workers for refusing to do it anymore, there are sooooooo many so called managers and head of departments yet have NO IDEA what they are doing, the general staff are having to deal with it so WHY do the council still have those managers??? they are however getting rid of some and one i have dealt with for years is a most eminent person at the job yet they are making that person redundant? and putting a real dognut in place and changing the job description, CONservative incompetance again and the taxpayers pay.
While hundreds of employees have faced the axe, existing employees have had their hours and job descriptions changed with no increases in salaries," THAT is absolutley right and no discussion about it either. "Services have slashed to the bone and in some instances have gone altogether yet the council has spent over £500,000 in three years on honorariums for the chosen few. "It's money that would have been better spent on much-need services. "It is outrageous that a council could be so out of touch with reality." Councillor Adrian Hardman is the one to complain too, i know of a couple of people who were paid a small amout to take on additional work after redundancies, thats been cut now and i dont blame the workers for refusing to do it anymore, there are sooooooo many so called managers and head of departments yet have NO IDEA what they are doing, the general staff are having to deal with it so WHY do the council still have those managers??? they are however getting rid of some and one i have dealt with for years is a most eminent person at the job yet they are making that person redundant? and putting a real dognut in place and changing the job description, CONservative incompetance again and the taxpayers pay. green49
  • Score: 5

10:41am Sat 31 May 14

3thinker says...

Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.
Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense. 3thinker
  • Score: 8

12:22pm Sat 31 May 14

brooksider says...

3thinker wrote:
Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.
Why?
Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required.
If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays?
[quote][p][bold]3thinker[/bold] wrote: Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.[/p][/quote]Why? Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required. If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays? brooksider
  • Score: -3

12:32pm Sat 31 May 14

Jabbadad says...

3thinker yes that is a very fair comment. Although the severe cuts in essential and very experienced staff is another issue which Adrian Hardman while taking his £43,577.85 per year county salary plus his Ward councillor payment sounds quite matter of fact about. But as commisioners Worcs County Council are just passing the buck to private operators to make a profit, and the most likely way is to sack staff (which for those left cereates a work overload) and reduce services (15 minute calls), so this becomes a lose , Lose situation for service users. Plus as said on here before there is a void of expertise at County with so many really experienced people due to uncertanty are leaving, as well as being sacked by Hardman & Co.
3thinker yes that is a very fair comment. Although the severe cuts in essential and very experienced staff is another issue which Adrian Hardman while taking his £43,577.85 per year county salary plus his Ward councillor payment sounds quite matter of fact about. But as commisioners Worcs County Council are just passing the buck to private operators to make a profit, and the most likely way is to sack staff (which for those left cereates a work overload) and reduce services (15 minute calls), so this becomes a lose , Lose situation for service users. Plus as said on here before there is a void of expertise at County with so many really experienced people due to uncertanty are leaving, as well as being sacked by Hardman & Co. Jabbadad
  • Score: 0

12:37pm Sat 31 May 14

3thinker says...

brooksider wrote:
3thinker wrote:
Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.
Why?
Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required.
If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays?
I think you'll find that an extra payment is only made when the more senior post has been vacant for a month or more. Typically staff also don't get extra for do others work at a similar level of responsibility.
[quote][p][bold]brooksider[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]3thinker[/bold] wrote: Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.[/p][/quote]Why? Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required. If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays?[/p][/quote]I think you'll find that an extra payment is only made when the more senior post has been vacant for a month or more. Typically staff also don't get extra for do others work at a similar level of responsibility. 3thinker
  • Score: 7

1:23pm Sat 31 May 14

Alvarez says...

Peter McDonald continues to show how out of touch he is. He'll use anything to score political points, to the detriment of workers. Perhaps he should be fighting for improved conditions rather than axing what is a pretty obvious and necessary method of continuing to provide a service without paying through the nose for it.
Peter McDonald continues to show how out of touch he is. He'll use anything to score political points, to the detriment of workers. Perhaps he should be fighting for improved conditions rather than axing what is a pretty obvious and necessary method of continuing to provide a service without paying through the nose for it. Alvarez
  • Score: 10

1:59pm Sat 31 May 14

3thinker says...

Alvarez wrote:
Peter McDonald continues to show how out of touch he is. He'll use anything to score political points, to the detriment of workers. Perhaps he should be fighting for improved conditions rather than axing what is a pretty obvious and necessary method of continuing to provide a service without paying through the nose for it.
How ironic.

Labour Council Leader encourages Conservative Council to undermine staff terms and conditions and in ways that will actually increase staff costs when they have to buy in agency staff.

Here's two things he could be doing to save the County Council lots more:

Lobby to get rid of the £10,000 each County Councillor has to spend on local initiatives. Annual saving of more than £500k per annum (not every 3 years).

Lobby to merge the County and District Councils to form one Unitary Authority for the whole of Worcestershire. This would save £ millions every year and without the need to cut vital services or raise Council Tax.

Now wouldn't it be interesting if UKIP adopted the latter policy when they get around to thinking about what their local government policies should be!
[quote][p][bold]Alvarez[/bold] wrote: Peter McDonald continues to show how out of touch he is. He'll use anything to score political points, to the detriment of workers. Perhaps he should be fighting for improved conditions rather than axing what is a pretty obvious and necessary method of continuing to provide a service without paying through the nose for it.[/p][/quote]How ironic. Labour Council Leader encourages Conservative Council to undermine staff terms and conditions and in ways that will actually increase staff costs when they have to buy in agency staff. Here's two things he could be doing to save the County Council lots more: Lobby to get rid of the £10,000 each County Councillor has to spend on local initiatives. Annual saving of more than £500k per annum (not every 3 years). Lobby to merge the County and District Councils to form one Unitary Authority for the whole of Worcestershire. This would save £ millions every year and without the need to cut vital services or raise Council Tax. Now wouldn't it be interesting if UKIP adopted the latter policy when they get around to thinking about what their local government policies should be! 3thinker
  • Score: 6

12:02am Sun 1 Jun 14

brooksider says...

3thinker wrote:
brooksider wrote:
3thinker wrote:
Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.
Why?
Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required.
If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays?
I think you'll find that an extra payment is only made when the more senior post has been vacant for a month or more. Typically staff also don't get extra for do others work at a similar level of responsibility.
Thanks, I assume the most of the '£500,000' is the hidden cost of maternity leave.
[quote][p][bold]3thinker[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]brooksider[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]3thinker[/bold] wrote: Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.[/p][/quote]Why? Surely part of the job specification of a 'Deputy' should be that they take the extra responsibilities when required. If not what happens when the 'Leaders' are on their holidays?[/p][/quote]I think you'll find that an extra payment is only made when the more senior post has been vacant for a month or more. Typically staff also don't get extra for do others work at a similar level of responsibility.[/p][/quote]Thanks, I assume the most of the '£500,000' is the hidden cost of maternity leave. brooksider
  • Score: -3

11:30am Sun 1 Jun 14

liketoknow says...

nowhere does it say why their bosses were off work, or whether they were on full pay.
nowhere does it say why their bosses were off work, or whether they were on full pay. liketoknow
  • Score: 0

12:35pm Mon 2 Jun 14

BC10ax says...

3thinker wrote:
Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.
I'd beg to differ. In real world companies, it's quite normal for people to be given more work as budgets and personnel are cut. The ones with expanded workloads might eventually get a pay rise, but it's by no means guaranteed.

And bearing in mind that the people at the top of local government bear little or no responsibility, and often seem overpaid anyway, these payments seem hard to justify.
[quote][p][bold]3thinker[/bold] wrote: Surely it makes complete sense to use an honorarium system. This is just party politicking by the Labour Party. I'm sure the Unions would support any of their members in a claim for additional payment if asked to take on a more responsible role on a temporary basis. The other option is to buy in temporary staff at even greater expense.[/p][/quote]I'd beg to differ. In real world companies, it's quite normal for people to be given more work as budgets and personnel are cut. The ones with expanded workloads might eventually get a pay rise, but it's by no means guaranteed. And bearing in mind that the people at the top of local government bear little or no responsibility, and often seem overpaid anyway, these payments seem hard to justify. BC10ax
  • Score: -1

5:06pm Mon 2 Jun 14

Marant says...

Shock news - people do more work, receive more pay!

Highly ironic for Labour politician to want people to get no reward for their work.
Shock news - people do more work, receive more pay! Highly ironic for Labour politician to want people to get no reward for their work. Marant
  • Score: 1

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