Thousands sign West Park petition as council calls for end to public sector pay cap

The Unison and Unite rally ahead of the meeting.
The Unison and Unite rally ahead of the meeting.

More than 5,000 people have backed a call for controversial proposals to build on a Sunderland park to be dropped.

The petition is believed to be the biggest ever received by the council.

This is a significant petition and I am told it is the biggest we have ever seen in the council.

Coun Gillian Galbraith

West Park in East Herrington has been included in Sunderland City Council’s Draft Core Strategy and Development Plan as a possible future site for housing.

The authority says 13,824 more homes are needed by 2033, with an average of 768 to be built a year.

St Chad’s ward member Coun Gillian Galbraith handed in two petitions to last night’s full council meeting demanding the proposals be dropped.

Coun Galbraith told the meeting a total of 5,153 people had signed the two: “This is a significant petition and I am told it is the biggest we have ever seen in the council,” she said.

Last night’s meeting saw a demonstration by members of the Unite and Unison unions in support of a motion calling for the Government to scrap public sector pay restraint and urging the Local Government Association to press Whitehall to fund a pay rise for staff.

Proposing the motion, Barnes member Coun Rebecca Atkinson said: “Public sector workers are our heroes.

“They are our carers, our educators, they keep us safe and protect us.

“They will run into trouble rather than run away from it – why then have they been the victims of the cruel austerity agenda?”

Conservative group leader Coun Robert Oliver said Tory members would abstain, because they backed raising the pay cap but could not back some of the motion.

“The answer to the motion is basically, ‘Yes but how do you pay for it?’,” he said.

A Conservative amendment, calling for the recent pay rises for police and prison officers to be extended to other public sector staff ‘as soon as the national finances allow’ was rejected by Mayor Coun Doris MacKnight as contrary to the spirit of the original proposal.