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Review of Senior Civil Service pay not possible within ‘straitjacket’ of 1% pay cap

A union has today called for an end to the 1% public sector pay “straitjacket” to end, warning that the government’s review of Senior Civil Service pay will only have an impact if this happens.

It follows ministers responding to the Senior Salaries Review Body’s (SSRB’s) report into changes to wages for senior public sector workers by accepting that changes needed to be made in the judiciary, Senior Civil Service and for executive and senior managers of arm’s-length bodies. 

“The government accepts the recommendation on developing innovative pay and workforce proposals. The government supports the development of workforce strategies and supporting reward objectives within public sector pay policy,” ministers said.

However, the government also said that the treasury would only fund an average pay rise of 1%, below the inflation rate of 2.6%.

But now, the FDA has responded by again asserting that the cap needed to be ended completely to support the struggling public sector.

“We welcome the government’s belated acceptance of the need to review the pay of senior civil servants and look forward to discussing this with them,” said the FDA’s assistant general secretary Naomi Cooke.

“What should be abundantly clear is that this cannot be achieved within a 1% straitjacket,” she added. “Reform of Senior Civil Service pay needs to be fully funded and it needs to happen soon – the current government pay policy is failing and is doing so in a way that costs civil servants and costs the public dear.”

Cooke added that despite recent talk of a public sector pay ‘premium’ when compared with the private sector, the SSRB’s report shows that the pay of union members – who do some of the most complex and vital jobs in public service – ‘lags significantly behind the private sector’, causing recruitment and retention problems in a number of areas.

“In fact, the government’s figures show that the bulk of the Senior Civil Service – deputy directors – are almost £14,000 a year worse off than they were in 2010, and now earn 46% less than their private sector counterparts – even when pensions are taken into account,” Cooke argued.

“That gap rises to a staggering 71% at director-level,” she continued. “It’s little wonder then, that more than half of those leaving the Senior Civil Service last year blamed pay for their exit and one in four recruitment exercises is unsuccessful.”

The FDA lead also went on to say that even though the union’s members had delivered billions of pounds of savings over the past seven years, they now faced the most complicated political challenge since the Second World War in the form of Brexit.

“Yet they’ve been rewarded with rapidly escalating costs just to stand still, ever-greater workloads, and ministerial pressure to deliver with the smallest workforce since the 1940s,” Cooke concluded.

“If ministers really want the ‘brightest and best’ staff for the challenges ahead, they must tackle fundamental issues with Senior Civil Service pay.  

“They could start by ditching the 1% cap, ending the divisive practice of paying internal promotes less than the advertised salary, and properly engaging with staff at a time when their expertise will be needed more than ever.”

Top Image: Lauren Hurley, PA Images

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