East Devon council doubles spend on boosting wages to keep up with private sector

The amount of cash splashed by East Devon District Council (EDDC) boosting staff wages to compete with the private sector has more than doubled in a year.

Salary incentives, known as ‘market supplements’, have already cost the authority £137,000 compared to £67,000 for the entirety of the previous 12 months ending in April 2021.

The temporary, fixed-term additional payment is added  to employees’ basic salaries to bring them up to the going market rate for their role, writes Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives.

EDDC, which employs around 500 people in a permanent and fixed-term capacity, is currently paying 41 such market supplements per month.

A spokesperson said: “Market supplements reflect trends in the marketplace and the difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified staff to the council.

“They are reviewed annually and are a useful tool in filling vacancies where the data shows that the pay we are offering is not comparable and has fallen behind.

“We have seen in the wider economy the difficulties that many in the public sector and private sector businesses have had in recruiting staff and the council is suffering from the same issues.”

A meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee heard the supplements are ‘a last resort’ to compete with other employers.

Its wage bill will rise again in April 2022 when National Insurance contributions for employers and staff rise by 1.25 per cent, costing East Devon a further £119,000 per year.

The Real Living Wage – thought to be the lowest amount of money people require to meet basic needs – is currently £9.90 per hour.

However, EDDC’s lowest salary is £9.25 per hour.

The council says relatively few people are on this level, and that it would look to change this as part of a ‘reward review’ se to be completed in January.

This will assess what changes need to be made to fix recruitment and retention issues.

But the private company undertaking it is has asked for more money on top of the £25,000 already allocated by EDDC.

It says extra work is needed ‘to refine the recommendations and to engage with key stakeholders before having in place a clear set of final recommendations and costings’.

The council will decide later if it wants to pay that supplement.

EDDC is also carrying out a ‘recruitment strategy review’ to see if it can improve its ’employer brand’ and recruit from a more diverse pool of employees in future.

Sidmouth Rural ward member Councillor John Loudoun told the meeting  that portfolio holders often felt ‘anxious’ about having enough staff ,but added that the review showed EDDC was ‘going in the right direction’.

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