Unions have welcomed a government announcement that will allow councils to raise almost half a billion pounds to fund equal pay settlements.
On Friday, 34 town halls were given permission to raise £455m to spend on thousands of equal pay claims, mainly from female employees. The money will be raised by a process known as capitalisation where councils borrow against the value of their assets.
Local government minister John Healey told The Times: “Local government workers have the legal right to fair pay like anyone else, but some councils have let unequal pay persist for decades.
“Good progress has been made over the past year, but this is not a new obligation on employers and I now want to see even greater progress made.”
Dave Prentis, general secretary at public sector union Unison, said the announcement showed the government was serious about tackling the gender pay gap.
“This is very welcome news, and a huge boost for those women in the local councils affected, who will receive some pay justice at last,” he said.
“It builds significantly on previous capitalisation directions and shows that the government is serious about delivering equality and fairness throughout the local government workforce.”
Brian Strutton, GMB national officer, said the announcement was good news for women.
“Councils are still struggling to meet the cost of implementing equal pay and this extra support will be very welcome,” he said.
“It means that the 50% of councils who have been dragging their heels can get on with the job of delivering equal pay and, what’s more, can do so without penalising other employees.”
Councils face a combined equal pay bill of up to £5bn, it has been estimated.