Lawyers under fire over equal pay battle

No win, no fee lawyers were last night branded “ruthless and parasitic” as they threatened to leave a host of councils with crippling compensation bills.

No win, no fee lawyers were last night branded “ruthless and parasitic” as they threatened to leave a host of councils with crippling compensation bills.

Former Labour minister Chris Mullin warned that lawyers were unpicking agreements negotiated between councils and unions to implement equal pay rules for men and women.

And he said the prospect of big bills could force councils to reduce frontline services and slash jobs.

His comments were backed by Norfolk County Council, which said the “plethora” of attempts to up the level of claims against local authorities was “extremely unhelpful”.

Mr Mullin's warning came as the Local Government Association said that fewer than half of local authorities would meet this month's deadline to implement an equal pay structure.

As a result, councils were now facing a bill for £3bn in back pay to women workers such as school dinner ladies and cleaners.

Most Read

The bill had been inflated by a European ruling which meant that the women were now entitled to up to six years' back pay, rather than two as had been the case.

Mr Mullin said: “It is compensation culture gone barmy and it is going to lead to ruin. It will undoubtedly lead in due course, if it's followed to its logical conclusion, to the collapse of some local services and many people losing their jobs - many of those who are being rewarded.”

A county council spokesman said: “This is a very sensitive matter for many authorities because whilst needing to implement the appropriate legislation, and wanting to do so, the government has made it clear that it will not give local authorities any additional money to meet the very considerable costs involved.

“For some time we have been preparing our modern reward strategy programme which aims to produce a new package of pay and condi-tions for all 16,000 Norfolk County Council employees.

“We continue to work very closely with our trades unions and shortly hope to put out to consultation a set of proposals for our staff to consider.”