A £20 voucher for each worker will put £64,000 into the economy but will be financed from Barnsley council funds. Council chiefs are under fire in Barnsley after awarding their entire workforce a financial bonus.
The news comes as the authority faces coronavirus spending troubles and many residents are braced for unprecedented poverty due to mounting job losses. Every worker at Barnsley Council is being given vouchers to spend on eating out at the new Market Kitchen in the town centre or with traders at the town centre market and those which operate in districts like Hoyland, Penistone and Goldthorpe.
The perk worth £20 each is designed to help support the market and reward staff who have worked hard during the coronavirus crisis. The council say it will put £64,000 into the local economy, though that is funded by local taxpayers. The decision to spend the money was made by the council leadership team and exposed by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
The move has been criticised for offering a freebie to workers in secure jobs while the town’s benefit claims are soaring and local councillors are struggling to support those facing food shortages in their own wards.
In the past few weeks, a housing officer has spoken out about the levels of poverty they have encountered in the Wombwell and Darfield areas, with councillors across central Barnsley using some of their funds to help 250 families provide meals and in Worsbrough another scheme to provide reduced price food is being launched.
Cllr Hannah Kitching said she was concerned the decision had been made without the consent of councillors and said “While this is lovely for our employees it is also a kick in the teeth for Barnsley residents who are struggling to pay council tax and put food on the table, for their council tax is being used to give a financial bonus to well paid people in secure jobs”. The spending made necessary by the coronavirus crisis meant that investment promises made in the council’s budget early this year were unlikely to all be fulfilled, she said “When residents are being told things cannot be done in their ward, that services are being cut, I think it is very disturbing there seems to have been sign-off given to a financial reward system that doesn’t appear to have gone through the proper channels”.
Council staff who choose to use their vouchers eating out in the Market Kitchen can take advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme at some outlets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays, when food from some outlets will have a 50 per cent price reduction.
It couldn’t happen in West Lancashire, could it?