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Issue:- 1 March  2012

LOCAL GOVERNMENT WORKERS TO SUFFER THIRD YEAR OF PAY FREEZE MISERY

UNISON, UNITE and GMB, said that even more local government workers will fall into the trap of poverty, as the local government employers confirmed that they would impose a pay freeze for the 3rd year running. More than 1.6 million workers will be hit, even those on the lowest wages who will not get the £250 minimum increase promised to them in Chancellor George Osborneís June 2010 budget; for the 2nd year in a row.

A survey by UNISON, revealed that pay in the sector has already been slashed by 13% in the last 3 years alone, which has contributed to stripping wages down to 1990ís levels. More than a quarter of the workforce now earn less than the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour, and many are forced to rely on benefits and tax credits to keep their heads above water. Any change in their familyís situation can drag them into poverty. At the same time, Chief Executive pay in local government has risen by a massive 59% between 1998 and 2007.

UNISON head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said:- "Many local government workers are in work, but in poverty. It is a disgrace that their pay will be frozen for the third year running; forcing even more into the poverty trap. Many of them will be women working in vital jobs in our local communities; like caring for the elderly, or for young children, or helping the vulnerable. Not even the lowest paid in local government will get the £250 increase the Chancellor promised them; they didnít get it last year either. Families can no longer cope. This cannot go on; councils do have other choices such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves. The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid."

Unite national officer, Peter Allenson, said:- "Local government workers are under sustained attack. Staff have endured a decade of below inflation pay increases and freezes. Now attacks on pensions, conditions and massive job cuts have heaped misery upon misery. It is time that local government employers face the fact that they have a crisis on their hands. Failure to act will push even more workers into poverty and damage local government services. Staff need a substantial pay increase this year. Unite will be meeting its activists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and fully supports its members in any action they are prepared to take for pay justice."

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary, said:- "GMB members will be devastated at the news they have to make ends meet without a pay rise for the third year running. The Chancellor promised that low paid public sector workers would get some protection against the cuts; so will he reign in the Conservative-controlled council leaders who have made a mockery of that promise?  This 3 year pay freeze is not an austerity measure, it is a deliberate political choice by local government politicians who want to win votes by keeping pay at poverty levels to fund council tax freezes. Council leaders and chiefs who vote themselves ever higher allowances and salaries are a despicable bunch and rank as the very worst employers Iíve ever come across."

Liverpool bids to be super-connected city

MORE than 100,000 people will get access to ultrafast broadband in Liverpool if a £25 million bid to become a super-connected city is successful.  The city council has applied for £9 million from the Governmentís Urban Broadband Fund (UBF). It would be matched by £11 million from a range of other sources including the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), as well as bids for around £5 million from other pots of cash.

The delivery of the bid that is intiled:- "Itís Super Connected, Itís Liverpool"; would form an integral part of the City Deal and Mayoral Investment Plan which has recently been negotiated with the Government.

Wireless internet access would be available for over 100,000 people, 4,800 businesses and up to 30 million annual visitors.  Areas to benefit would include the new Enterprise Zone proposed as part of the City Deal, the knowledge quarter around the universities and Liverpool Science Park and the central business district.

It is planned that free wireless access would be available at tourist hotspots such as the World Heritage Site, major cultural institutions and Liverpool ONE.  Visitors to Liverpool will be able to download specially designed applications loaded with information about business, leisure and tourism in the city to show them where to go and what to do.

Homes would get access to speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second, while another 3,000 businesses would be able to access speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second.  It is estimated the project could help generate an additional £56 million for the local economy and create up to 1400 jobs by targeting parts of the city which would see the greatest return in terms of employment and business growth.

Council Leader Joe Anderson said:- "This is an ambitious bid which would put Liverpool at the forefront of the digital revolution.  If we are serious about competing with the biggest and best cities in the world, we simply have to invest in the right infrastructure to deliver what is needed. We are a growing city with plans to substantially increase the number of employers and visitors to our city through the Mayoral Development Zones and schemes such as Liverpool Waters. We live in a world now where broadband is a part of our everyday lives and people expect to be able get online wherever they are. Increasingly this is via smart phones or tablets, and we have to put the right technology in place to meet demand otherwise we will get left behind."

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 92,000 people in Liverpool have never been online; and a key aim is for the project to benefit the most deprived areas of the city including Everton, Kirkdale, Anfield, Princes Park and Toxteth to improve education, employment and health.  It is hoped it will reduce the number of socially and digitally excluded people from 69% to the national average of 40%.  It is estimated the ultrafast broadband speeds would be available by 2015 with the aim of getting 50% take up by 2020.  The scheme would see more than 13 kilometres of additional ducting and fibre laid.  And over 1,400 wireless access points would be fitted to street furniture such as lampposts, meaning roads and pavements would not have to be dug up to lay new cables.

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