Top civil servants face pay rise veto

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The Independent Online
CABINET MINISTERS are threatening to veto big pay increases for top civil servants, judges, and officers in the armed services, while allowing rises for nurses and doctors.

William Waldegrave, the minister responsible for the Civil Service, has told colleagues that he is ready to limit the pay rises for top people, in spite of the impression which emerged from Downing Street that the Government was ready to accept higher-than-inflation rises to avoid a fight with public-sector employees.

The Prime Minister's office confirmed last night that it had received the senior salaries review body. The final figure for this year will be in addition to a rise of 2.8 per cent to be paid from 1 April, agreed by the Government in July 1992.

It is believed the SSRB has recommended substantial increases to take account of catching up, and comparability with the private sector, after a year in which they were pegged to an increase of 2.9 per cent - also agreed in 1992.

Mr Waldegrave is further risking the ire of the Civil Service by pursuing radical changes to its top grades. He believes that by cutting Civil Service numbers, he will be able to afford substantial pay rises in future years.

He is planning to sharply reduce the size of the Civil Service in the main Whitehall departments by more market testing of public-service jobs, matching them against bids from the private sector.

Mr Waldegrave believes that would enable him to offer salaries closer to those in the private sector. The Civil Service unions, already alarmed by the drive towards market testing, will be unnerved by the threat of more jobs going to the private sector. However, the prospect of higher salaries to recruit high-flyers may buy off some of the protests.

Mr Waldegrave is also determined to implement recommendations from a report by the efficiency unit, under Sir Peter Levene, by opening more senior Civil Service posts to open competition.

He was accused of protecting the top civil servants from the painful changes imposed on the lower ranks. It was estimated that only 10 per cent of 620 senior posts were recruited through open competition.

Rejecting warnings by Labour of lower standards in the public service as a result of privatisation, Mr Waldegrave has told colleagues he wants to recruit some permanent secretaries from the private sector, and will openly advertise senior Civil Service posts.

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