Councillors join forces to oppose pay plans

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.
County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

COUNTY councillors have put aside their political differences to oppose government plans to pay public-sector workers in south east Northumberland less than their peers down south.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is considering introducing new pay rates for teachers, nurses and council staff based on where they live, but the move has sparked an outcry in the north east.

In a motion to last week’s full meeting of Northumberland County Council last week, Labour group leader Grant Davey urged the authority to fight the policy.

He believes it would harm the north east and make it difficult for the region’s schools and hospitals to recruit the best teachers and medics.

“Regional pay will not work,” said Coun Davey, of Blyth’s Kitty Brewster ward. “The motion gives all parties a chance to send a strong message to the coalition government.

“This is an issue that we need to take very, very seriously in Northumberland.

“We have a government who want to impose regionalised pay so we get much lower pay than people who live to the south and people who live to the north in Scotland.

“We will be economically squeezed from both sides.

“Workers in Northumberland are paid £77 less per week than the British average.

“Regional or local public-sector pay would have a harmful effect across the north east.

“It will make it harder for schools and other public services to recruit and retain good-quality professionals who could earn more for doing the same job elsewhere.

“We do not want to be forever defined as a low-pay region.”

Conservative group leader Peter Jackson, of Ponteland, said: “Regional pay is wrong. It is wrong to differentiate between one part of the country and another.”

Council leader Jeff Reid, a Liberal Democrat, agreed, suggesting that the authority write to Mr Osborne to register its opposition to the proposals.

Coun Reid, of Plessey in Blyth, added: “We would never support the regionalisation of pay. We would never vote for it. It ain’t gonna happen.

“They are trying to drag down pay rates for hard-working people in less fortunate regions. It it is a kite-flying exercise.”

The council agreed to urge Mr Osborne, pictured, to rethink his plans.