Councillors vote ‘with regret’ against compensating staff who missed out on £735 government payment

AT a meeting of Blaenau Gwent Council, members discussed a motion from the Labour and Minority Independent groups correcting an injustice suffered by some Blaenau Gwent staff who missed out on a government payment of £735.

They wanted staff from workforce development, early years childcare and play, families first, and Flying Start deparments that are all part of the councils’ social services directorate and did not receive payment from Welsh Government’s NHS and Social Care Financial Recognition Scheme to receive a payment of £735 from the council.

They had originally qualified for Government payments in April, but the guidance subsequently changed and they missed out.

The motion was narrowly defeated with 18 voted in favour and 21 against – although several councillors saying they were “regrettably voting against” the motion.

There are around 100 members of staff that missed out, and it would have cost the council £73,500 to provide the payment.

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Education portfolio holder, Cllr Joanne Collins said:

“I have a great deal of sympathy for staff that have been caught up in this situation, however I am concerned that the motion has the potential to create inconsistencies for the workforce across the council and it’s likely to be divisive.

“Education colleagues have worked tirelessly to either directly provide or support essential front-line services throughout the pandemic and continue to do so.

“I also recognise that this hard work and dedication has been replicated across the many other service areas across our organisation.

“I’m concerned that if the motion is carried it would have a detrimental impact on staff, it’s an unfortunate situation of the Welsh Government making and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for this council to intervene.”

Environment portfolio holder, Cllr Joanna Wilkins added:

“It’s the impact and message this send out to other front-line staff.

“With a heavy heart I would find it very difficult to support this.”

Social services portfolio holder, Cllr John Mason said that social service chiefs across Gwent had “raised concerns” with Welsh Government ministers.

Cllr Mason said:

“Also the leader and executive wrote to the minister asking for this decision to be overturned.”

Cllr Thomas stressed that the whole point of the motion was to right a particular “injustice.”

Cllr Thomas said:

“No way in the world is it right that some get the payment and others don’t, when they were working side by side.

“We’ve all gone down the route of getting the minister to pay, but it ain’t working, they’ll (Welsh Government) end up having to pay 200,000 people by the time the scheme is finished.”

Cllr Thomas believed Blaenau Gwent should recognise the work of the staff who had faced the brunt of the pandemic before the roll out of vaccines,  and that councillors had one question to ask themselves:

“Do we value those colleagues or not?”

 

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

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