Prepare for 0% pay rises says new head of local government body

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Local government workers must be prepared for 0% pay rises, the new president of the Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA) tells HR.

Speaking exclusively to HR, Gillian Hibberd, HR director of Buckinghamshire County Council, says one of her first acts since taking over as president of the PPMA last month will be to rally support for 0% pay rises in the upcoming public-sector pay talks.

"Last year pay awards were 2.45% rising to 2.75% after arbitration," she says. "Lots of authorities are telling me this is untenable. I'll be saying our starting base will be a 0% pay rise. If we're in negative inflation, how can we argue for anything different?"

According to Hibberd, who was voted 17th Most Influential HR practitioner in HR's annual rankings, engagement will have to come from HR policies that foster involvement.

"We have high levels of employee engagement, but the issue is about ensuring talent stays within councils and doesn't leave. This year I have to provide a clear vision about what talent in local government is all about - I'm basing it around purpose, passion and performance," she says.

Her comments come as there is a serious shortage of talented people in local government - not least in social care following the 'Baby P' case. A recent report by the Local Government Association (LGA), found that one in 10 social-worker vacancies remain unfilled, with 89% of councils reporting recruiting difficulties for the role. In a separate report, 60% of councils in the North East of England say they have recruitment problems, while in London and the South East 75% of councils are short-staffed.

"Baby P is having a really awful effect on recruitment into local government," Hibberd says. "Rebuilding social work as a viable career is an urgent priority. People are rightly asking: 'Why would I want to be a children's social worker right now?'"

But she adds: "HR can help to put the value back into roles," she says. "For every Baby P case there are 1,000 successes, but we rarely hear of the brilliance of local government talent."