Workforce Shrinks As Councils Tighten Belts

But salaries for those remaining rise by average of 3.9%


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The number of people employed in local government fell sharply over the past two years as councils tightened their belts during the recession, new analysis of the local government workforce revealed.

Local government employment reduced by more than 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs - a 1.5% decrease - between 2008/09 and 2010/11. The number of people working in mainstream local government jobs currently stands at 1,697,100. The reduction came at a time when overall public sector employment increased by 4.5%.

Research carried out by the Local Government Group shows that the pay bill for mainstream local government workers, including bonuses and overtime, was £26.4 billion in 2010/11 – an increase of 1.2% from 2008/09. This equates to a real terms fall of 5.4% when inflation is taken into account.

Average salaries for local government workers below chief officer level have gone up by 3.9% over the last two years compared to earnings growth of 7.1% in the wider public sector.

The research also shows that these workers in local government have the lowest average earnings compared to other groups of workers in the public sector. Looking at pay rates in terms of full-time equivalent jobs, 45% are paid at less than £18,000 a year and a further 27% are paid at between £18,000 and £24,000.

Sir Steve Bullock, Chair of the LG Group Workforce Programme Board, said: “These figures show that far from the common myth of profligate councils paying huge salaries to armies of unnecessary pen-pushers, local authorities have been operating significant pay restraint in the past few years as they dealt with the impact of the recession and shrinking budgets.

“The restraint in the pay-bill occurred at the same time that councils were dealing with the equal pay issue and were rightly closing the gender pay gap in local government to one of the lowest in Europe, which caused an upward pressure on salaries.

“Councils knew the cuts to their budgets were coming and did all they could to prepare, taking early action to reduce the size of their workforce and as a result cutting the overall wage bill. This came against a background of overall growth in other areas of the public sector and demonstrates local government’s commitment to providing value for money to council taxpayers.

“Despite the pay restraint demonstrated by this research, the local government workforce continues to work very hard providing essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The report can be found at

May 11, 2011