City council loses Supreme Court case over staff pay rises

Nottingham City Council Loxley House © westbridgfordwire.com
Nottingham City Council Loxley House © westbridgfordwire.com
  • Hundreds of council workers will receive finally “get money they deserve” after a final decision was made on a seven-year row over pay.
  • Before the case was taken to the Supreme Court, a Freedom of Information request showed the city council had already spent £290,331.67 on legal fees.

The Labour-run Nottingham City Council is now expected to make payments to around 600 people, some of whom still work at the authority.

The dispute began in 2011 when a group of council workers took the council to court over a decision to freeze incremental pay rises for staff.

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It meant staff would no longer get pay rises as they moved up salary scales linked to their jobs.

The matter was heard in a tribunal first, before being taken to the Court of Appeal, and then escalated to the Supreme Court – the highest in the land.

However, the Supreme Court refused the city’s application to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had found in favour of a group bid made by trade unions on behalf of the 600 members of staff.

This effectively ends the city council’s legal challenge, and the case will now go back to an employment tribunal to finalise the amount people will be paid.

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UNISON’s Nottingham City branch secretary Christina Sanna said: “Nottingham City Council was completely wrong in the first place to try to prevent its staff from getting the pay rises they were due.

“The fact they’ve been refused leave to appeal is good news for employees.

“They’ll finally get the money they deserve.”

Before the case was taken to the Supreme Court, a Freedom of Information request showed the city council had already spent £290,331.67 on legal fees.

This is likely to have increased further, and additionally the city will now have to pay the legal fees of the unions.

Councillor Andrew Rule is the leader of the Conservative group at the city council, and represents the Clifton North Ward.

He said: “Yet again council tax payers money has been lost in a failed appeal against a decision taken by the courts.

“Nottingham City Council needs to stop trying to score political points in court, risking rate payers money on spurious legal challenges.

“It will be interesting to see how they meet the additional liabilities that arise from this latest failed challenge against existing budget pressures.”

A spokesman for Nottingham City Council said: “We are disappointed with the decision of the Supreme Court to refuse the council’s application to appeal a previous judgment in relation to the historical freeze on incremental pay rises.

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“The matter will now go back to the Nottingham Employment Tribunal to assess the position of individual claimants.

“Once this part of the process has concluded, we will be able to assess the full financial implications for the council but it is likely to result in an additional cost at a time when our budget is under pressure as a result of Government cuts.

“The freeze on incremental pay rises was introduced in 2011 as part of the £232m of savings the council had to make, with its main Government grant cut by three-quarters since 2013.

“The decision to freeze these pay rises was taken in order to avoid cuts to jobs and services and until this challenge, the freeze was thought to have saved the equivalent of around 1,000 full-time jobs.

“Had it not been introduced, further cuts to services and job losses would have been unavoidable.

“The council will now be reviewing its position and assessing how it can minimise the impact of this decision on jobs and council services.”