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Local Government Service Group Conference 15-16 June 2008

Call for urgent action on 'devastating impact' of petrol rises on mileage rates

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

UNISON will take urgent action to address the devastating impact that soaring fuel costs is having on members who use their cars for work. Huge increases in the cost of petrol and diesel mean that many members are now subsidising their employers.

Delegates heard how branches were receiving distress calls on a daily basis from members who were in despair at the situation - members who were already hard hit by the knock-on effect of rising fuel prices on food and other goods.

The Local Government Service Group Conference gave its overwhelming backing to an emergency composite from a number of local government branches and fully supported a range of measures aimed at securing fair car rates, including starting discussions about withdrawing the use of vehicles and industrial action.

An emergency motion from Aberdeenshire Branch ensured that the unique Scottish position was reflected in the debate. Kate Ramsden from Aberdeenshire told conference that we are seeing the steepest rises in petrol and diesel costs for more than a century with diesel now costing almost £1.30 a litre. "For our colleagues on the Scottish Islands you can add 15p to that cost," she said. "In Scotland, there is no longer national bargaining on mileage rates and the mileage allowance paid by most Scottish local authorities is the Inland Revenue rate of 40p per mile.

"It is a disgrace that this has not been increased since 2002. Running a car for work now eats into our members' incomes and is fast becoming a pay cut," she said, adding that this hits low paid members the hardest.

She told conference, "Our members, especially those in rural areas like Aberdeenshire, need their cars to do their jobs. They don't have a choice. They need their cars to make sure that vital services are provided to the most vulnerable in our society. Services like home care for the elderly and disabled - a lifeline in rural communities, but provided by some of our lowest paid members. Services like social work services to protect vulnerable children and to support families in need.

"We need action as a matter of urgency," she said, calling on the Service Group Executive to redouble its efforts to campaign for an increase in the Inland Revenue rate, and to put pressure on the government to address the fuel crisis and to check the spiral of rising costs.