Biggleswade Town Council defends decision to award its staff £550 bonus
Biggleswade Town Council has defended its decision to award staff members a £550 bonus after unhappy residents contacted the Chronicle in protest.
The bonus was agreed at Full Council on February 9 as an exempt item and reported in open minutes since the decision related to all council staff.
However, as the word spread, residents have taken to social media in protest, while some have contacted the Chronicle to make their voices heard.
Resident Blair Robertson claimed: "It seems like a horrific amount to give to all council staff when they have just announced large council tax rises, failed to adequately support local businesses, and at a time when people are on 80 per cent pay, a reduced income or unemployed."
Another resident said: "I have been informed by The Biggleswade Town Hall Chief Executive that it has been decided that all of the town council staff will receive a £550 bonus, in recognition of their 'hard work and commitment'. This is outrageous.
"I am absolutely appalled that the town council feels it has the right to use council tax money to reward their staff, when my council tax for the town council has increased to 9.5 per cent."
The town council wishes to make it clear that it was just town council staff who received the bonus, and not the town councillors, whose role is unpaid.
In response to the comments, Mayor of Biggleswade, Cllr Madeline Russell, told the Chronicle: "Many organisations have experienced great stresses and strains during the last 12 months and the town council is no different. As a public body, it was our duty to ensure that all our services to residents were not only Covid-compliant but were as full as possible in the circumstances, responding to the latest, ever-changing, Government guidance.
"The public realm team continued to ensure cemeteries were maintained and open spaces were attractive and available for people taking exercise. Our administration team kept the core services of the council going even though the office was closed much of the time and staff had to work at home. In the early days of the pandemic, when the vulnerable were shielding, staff also worked with local churches and voluntary groups to co-ordinate the delivery of food parcels and vital medicine.
"The council suspended all parking charges to help both businesses and residents and instigated its ‘Buy Biggleswade’ campaign to encourage support for local businesses. The market was re-organised so that those stalls allowed to trade under the covid rules were as safe as possible.
"Alongside other public services which have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, it is to be hoped that residents appreciate all that has been done by town council staff. Full council decided the bonus was appropriate to acknowledge the commitment shown by staff who worked tirelessly during the last difficult year."
The minutes for the February 9 Full Council meeting are as follows: "14. EXEMPT ITEMS The resolution was moved that it was advisable in the public interest that the public and press be excluded whilst the following exempt items were discussed.
"a. Staff Matter It was RESOLVED that a one-off payment of £550 be paid to all staff (excluding contractors) as a thank you for their efforts and commitment during a particularly difficult year. The amount to be proportionately reduced for part-time staff."