The cost-of-living crisis and local government workers

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
16 February 2023

Conference notes that local government workers not only see the cost-of-living crisis first-hand as part of their jobs, but many are suffering directly at the hands of the government’s economic incompetence and political decision to prioritise the wealthiest in society rather than protecting those who need help the most.

UNISON research shows since 2009 local government staff are thousands of pounds out of pocket. Qualified residential care workers employed by local authorities are £6,177 a year worse off, refuse and recycling collectors £3,506 worse off and teaching assistants £4,813 worse off.

In practical terms, this means every household with a local government worker in it has been tightening its belt for the past twelve years – long before this crisis hit. Inequality was already hitting record highs by 2020, before the pandemic shook our economy – as a result of stagnating pay and inflation. These households have already taken every step they can to reduce their costs and make ends meet. A Trussell Trust report in 2014 says that “People on low incomes have traded down and down again to the cheapest food products; after which they simply have to buy less food.” Eight years later, there is little left to cut for the lowest income households and middle-income families are now struggling to make ends meet too. Research from the New Economics Foundation last year showed that 21.4 million people will now be living in households below the threshold needed for a decent standard of living – or nearly one in three households in the UK.

Conference believes the cost-of-living crisis is a low pay crisis – wages are insufficient to live on. All wages are failing to keep pace with inflation, but this is especially the case in the public sector – and public sector wages are something that the government has direct control over.

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Increase pressure on central government through UNISON’s campaign for a fairer funding settlement for local government;

2)Maintain a high profile media campaign to ensure the public understand the need for properly funded services and decent pay for local government workers;

3)Work with the NJC Committee and Labour Link to ensure all avenues to lobby the LGA are followed;

4)Produce campaigning materials on the cost-of-living impact on local government workers to support UNISON’s campaign.