Local government minister pledges extra funds to help cash-strapped councils meet equal pay claims

Councils are to get more support to held them tackle the equal pay crisis that is threatening to overwhelm local government.

Local government minister John Healey said the government would again this year again councils to meet their equal pay liabilities by borrowing against their assets – known as capitalisation.

In September last year the government allocated £500m of equal pay capitalisation directions to 46 authorities in England, giving them the financial flexibility to make one-off back-payments to tens of thousands of women.

The actual amount freed up for councils will be announced in September, Healey said.

“Councils are making real progress on implementing equal pay, and almost half have now completed or implemented their reviews,” he said.

“But progress varies in different areas, and I want many more authorities to tackle this in an active and affordable manner. It is only right that people benefit from their right to equal pay as quickly as possible.”

Healey made clear that the extra cash should not be used to fund direct payments to solicitors, including ‘no-win, no-fee’ solicitors. Critics have blamed no-win, no-fee lawyers for complicating already complex sets of negotiations between employers and unions.

Steve Bullock, chair of Local Government Employers, said: “Providing a fair settlement on equal pay remains an urgent issue for local councils who must act in the best interests of local taxpayers as well as all staff.”

Public sector union Unison said the announcement was “a welcome boost” for low-paid women workers in local government.