Members will recollect that the UNISON West Sussex branch entered negotiations with the Council for a temporary uplift to NJC mileage rates, due to very high petrol prices in 2022. This led to a temporary increase in the rate from 46.9 pence to 58.7 pence for 3 months from July to September 2022, which was then further extended upon review. The higher rate of 58.7 pence is still in force, but the council has signalled its intention to UNISON to reduce the rate due to a reduction in petrol forecourt prices.
UNISON surveyed our West Sussex members on the impact there would be on them if the council did reduce the mileage rate, and we shared the results with the executive leadership team at the council. Following further discussions, the council has now decided to reduce the 58.7 pence mileage rate to an interim rate of 52.2 pence with effect from 1 July 2023 before potentially reducing to 46.9 pence from 1 January 2024. The final reduction from 52.2 pence to 46.9 pence will be subject to an assessment in November 2023 that the circumstances remain right to reduce the mileage rate further.
UNISON is obviously not happy with this decision, but we do recognise the goodwill of the council in increasing the rate as it did in July 2022 in response to our request, that the uplifted rate was always intended by the council to be temporary, and that the council is staging a phasing out of the higher rate over several months with an interim rate of 52.2 pence to mitigate the impact. We also note that South East petrol prices in July 2022 were £189.3 per litre, and that the April 2023 average South East price is £148.1 per litre (AA figures).
Nevertheless, we hold concerns that this reduction will impact negatively on morale and staff retention, particularly when other local authorities such as Brighton & Hove have higher mileage rates. The branch would like to hear from members about your views on the reduction. Should the branch prepare a local collective claim on the mileage rate for a permanent increase, for example? As with the decision by the branch to push for the temporary increase, we await our members’ views to inform the next steps for the branch in regard to West Sussex mileage rates.