Around 5,000 council staff could benefit from a new employee discount scheme instead of pay rises, it can be revealed today.
Sandwell Council says it cannot afford to increase its workers’ salaries as it needs to make savings of £100 million by 2017, but is instead looking for outside help to make their money go further.
The authority is looking for an external firm to help establish an employee discount scheme which works by tapping into the council’s buying power as an organisation of that size.
Internal research has found half of council staff are at the top of their pay grade already, so this move is aimed at encouraging workers and helpiing retain them, while the authority cannot offer pay rises.
The authority has earmarked £35,000 to spend on an external firm for the first year of the scheme to help make this idea a reality.
The initiative will not involve school staff in the borough.
Council leader Councillor Darren Cooper said: “Staff haven’t had a pay rise so what I’ve asked the council to do is to look at how we can use its collective buying power to offer something back to staff.
“At the moment the council needs to make significant savings and we cannot afford pay rises so we want to look at other ways to save money for our staff.”
Part of the plan is for council staff to have an employee discount card, branded for the council, which is accepted by retailers in the borough.
The idea is to make the borough more prosperous as the 4,946 council staff across its 11 directorates are encouraged to spend more money in the area.
Another part of the scheme is advertising benefits available to council staff, including salary sacrifice – where workers give up some of their gross salary for a benefit like childcare vouchers, car parking, interest free bicycle loans and buying annual leave.
That has a benefit for the council too as it does not have to pay National Insurance on those options.
The authority hopes that by the second year of the scheme, the savings from NI contributions the council is no longer paying will mean the initiative pays for itself.
It is hoped to extend the council’s current salary sacrifice scheme to include things like a car lease and to link to local businesses so the council’s staff are spending their money in the area.