Fife Council plans to furlough staff

A trade union has criticised the Scottish government for under-funding local councils, as Fife Council applies to put some of its staff on furlough.

The local authority said it is preparing to put in an application to the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to furlough some of its staff and recoup some of its costs during lockdown.

UNISON warned that the scheme must not be used as a ‘waiting room for redundancy’, with Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, saying: “The fact that Scottish councils are having to apply for funding from the Westminster furlough scheme is a damning indictment of the Scottish Government’s under-funding of local government and demonstrates how cash-strapped they are.

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“The Scottish government needs to address the shortfall in local government finance as a matter of urgency to protect jobs and services going forward.”

Fife Council said that while it is applying to use the scheme, there are no plans to alter job roles or services in the future. Staff might be asked to return to work before the scheme ends.

Elaine Muir, head of finance with Fife Council, said: “We’re only applying the scheme in areas where staffing costs are normally covered by external income and where that income is no longer being received e.g. catering, parking management.”

Sharon McKenzie, head of human resources added: “We’ve worked with our local trades unions to agree our approach and managers are speaking to affected employees to offer advice and support.

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“Anyone placed on furlough will still receive full pay, pension contribution, holiday entitlement etc with the council topping up the element funded through the job retention scheme.

“It does not impact on anyone’s employment status or reflect any plans to alter job roles or services in the future and we look forward to welcoming our employees back to work in the not too distant future.

“The job retention scheme is currently set to run until October and we’ll keep all arrangements under review.”