A county council in north Wales is facing possible industrial action after giving its grey fleet users formal notification that it intends to withdraw its £1,000 annual car allowance.
The Isle of Anglesey County Council intends to stop paying the allowance to around 270 employees who use their cars for essential work purposes from May 7. It’s a move being closely watched by other local authorities considering similar action.
These employees, who range from planning staff to social workers, are currently paid the allowance in addition to 40p per mile for the first 8,500 miles per year and 15ppm thereafter.
In its place, the council intends to give employees a one-off payment of £150 while increasing the mileage rate to 52.2ppm for the first 8,500 miles and 15ppm thereafter.
These changes will mean that the council’s essential grey fleet users are paid the same as its 1,500 non-essential users.
Fleet News understands that more than 45 employees have already accepted the council’s proposed changes.
But, in a move likely to be replicated should other local authorities attempt a similar course of action, Unison is challenging the decision.
It believes the changes could be a false economy with the council ultimately paying more.
An Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesman said: “Around 225 staff have been given formal notification that the essential car allowance will be withdrawn on May 7 following a period of extensive consultation.
“This will provide the authority with an efficiency saving of £250,000 – and more importantly prevent 16 redundancies.
“Around 25% of those affected have already accepted the offer on the table, namely a £150 one off payment and increase in mileage allowance from 40ppm to 52.2ppm.
“Unison is obliged to formally notify the auth-ority as regards industrial action or a ballot of members. We have not yet received any formal notification.”
The spokesman added that dialogue about the removal of the essential car allowance has now been ongoing with Unison for 18 months.
The mileage allowance currently in place accords with guidelines established by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services employees.
Fleet News understands that council officials initially wanted to scrap the £1,000 annual car allowance while simultaneously bringing in the HMRC rate of 45ppm for the first 10,000 miles and 25ppm thereafter – but this was subsequently rejected.
Unison has confirmed to Fleet News that 100 of the 225 staff affected are its members and these are now considering leaving their cars at home on May 8 as a result of the changes.
The Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesman added: “This is, of course, a personal choice for the individuals concerned, but the authority does have its own fleet which they can use.
“The 52.2ppm offered is significantly higher than the 45ppm recommended by HMRC to cover car running costs.”
Unison has informed Fleet News that the council currently has 34 pool cars and – as part of its plans – it intends to increase the size of this fleet by five to 39.
In addition, it also intends to provide a fleet of 15 LPG vehicles to other employees also classed as essential users.
Geoff Edkins, Unison’s regional organiser, said: “We intend conducting a formal ballot for industrial action – the precise timings are to be sorted out but we will need to ballot in April.
“We’ve been told by a number of our members that they don’t wish to use their car as a result of the changes and this clearly has the potential to cause problems.
“Public transport isn’t as reliable in this part of the world as it is in most towns and cities and the clear concern is that there will be insufficient pool cars for employees to use.
“The council is asking employees to forego an awful lot of money – and that comes on the top of the ongoing three-year pay freeze.
“We also believe that the council might end up spending less on the lump sums than it does on hiring cars and supplying pool cars.
“In short, we believe that these changes could well prove to be a false economy.”