Monday, March 05, 2007

Unintended Consequences Watch

One thing always leads to another...
In the news this morning:

1. 999 emergency ambulance calls soar- According to "figures obtained by the BBC" (aka the Ambulance Service Union press office phoning them up) 999 emergency ambulance call-outs are up by as much as 20% since last year. The cause? Yes, the loss of that GPs out-of-hours service. A union spokesman says: "There's people thinking that in the night-time, perhaps, there's no GP service available therefore the only option they have is to ring 999." How amazing.

2. Equal pay whacks local authorities- As you may or may not be aware, local authorities are facing a huge bill for backpay to female workers who have not had equal pay to men. Depending on which guesstimate you believe, it's £3-5bn, with individual councils looking at tens or even hundreds of millions. (see this BBC video- first one- or this summary from Personnel Today).

The story here is that government equal pay legislation going back to the 1970 Equal Pay Act is finally being implemented in the local authority sector. The live date is supposedly next week.

The trouble is, nobody really worked out the details. In particular, they didn't bottom out the thorny issue of backpay once you concede that the female employees have suffered discrimination. Or how those troublesome Euro labour regs might come into play. So although the LA employers and the unions stitched up a traditional smokey room deal to limit backpay, the women themselves decided to ignore it and sue for full compensation.

Did I say the women? Sorry, I meant the no-win-no-fee lawyers.

Anyway, they've won. So now there's the tricky issue of the unanticipated bill. And LAs are effectively boxed in.

To all intents and purpose, Council Tax is capped by Whitehall. And the cash-strapped government is definitely not prepared to stump up any more cash via the Revenue Support Grant. Neither will they allow LAs to borrow more.

Strangely, Local Government Commissar Woolas (check out his flash office in the vid) doesn't seem to think those record LA efficiency gains will fund it either.

So... er....

His solution is emergency legislation.

To stop these women getting paid out under the last lot of legislation.

The stuff that wasn't properly thought through.

Unlike his proposed legislation.

Although, any unintended consequences there could be picked up by... more legislation.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly...

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