Major trims 'top' people's 19.7% pay rise plea to 4%

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The Independent Online
THE PRIME MINISTER rejected a 19.7 per cent pay plea issued on behalf of more than 2,000 judges, senior civil servants and armed forces officers yesterday.

Instead, John Major awarded them a flat 4 per cent rise backdated to 1 April, with a further increase of 3 per cent of current salary next April, and 2.8 per cent in 1994 - on top of any annual increases they get in those two years.

He said in a Commons reply the total staged increase of 9.8 per cent, or pounds 13.87m on the pay bill, would 'therefore be about half of the recommended level'.

Mr Major - whose pounds 76,234 salary is already less than that of 36 civil servants, 167 judges, and 22 officers - said that while ministers relied on, and greatly valued, the work of the public sector's most senior people, he had to take the general economic situation into account.

'The rate of increase in average earnings is now at the lowest level for 25 years, and pay settlements in the private sector are running at around 4 per cent,' he said. 'The economy is moving to a low rate of inflation as the essential basis for resumed and sustained growth.'

In its first fundamental review since 1985, the Review Body on Top Salaries complained that while senior public servants had over the years been forced to set an example, few in the private sector have followed that lead.

The pay of 'top' people in the public sector had risen by 7 per cent in real terms since 1985, while those in the private sector had seen their salaries increase by more than 40 per cent.

But Mr Major promised that performance-related pay would ensure that some officials would get more than 4 per cent and ministers would discuss the possibility of extending the system.

The new salary increases will put Sir Robin Butler, Secretary of the Cabinet, on pounds 108,940; Sir Terence Burns, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, will get pounds 101,920; the 23 departmental permanent secretaries will move up to pounds 87,620; and 11 second permanent secretaries will get pounds 80,600. The current salary of a cabinet minister in the Commons is pounds 63,047, and backbenchers get pounds 30,854. In a move designed to press MPs who are demanding more money for their office expenses, the Government timed its announcement to coincide with a reponse to another report from the review body on MPs' office costs allowances.

While that report called for a 23.6 per cent increase in MPs' pounds 28,986 annual staffing and office costs, in addition to a one-off pounds 5,000 office equipment grant, the Cabinet cut that back to a 9.8 per cent rise on top of the 4.5 per cent increase MPs received under an existing formula in April.

A cross-party alliance of MPs is nevertheless bound to vote for

the full increase in their office

allowances.

In a pre-emptive strike against media criticism, David Blunkett, a Labour front-bencher, pointed out last night that the Parliamentary Press Gallery was also subsidised by the taxpayer - with free accommodation, lighting, heating, telephones and car

parking.

'Those who live in glass houses should be careful where they throw their stones,' he said.

Staffing plan rejected, page 6

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