Top civil servants told it is better to give than receive

SIR ROBIN BUTLER, the pounds 105,000-a-year head of the Home Civil Service, has dropped a heavy hint that fellow Whitehall mandarins might care to give some of their 3 per cent pay rise next April to charity, writes Barrie Clement.

Embarrassed that the rise would breach the 1.5 per cent limit imposed on 5 million lesser mortals throughout the public sector, Sir Robin counsels senior colleagues in an internal memorandum that a discreet donation to people less fortunate than themselves might be in order. In a letter to the top three grades, earning between pounds 49,300 and pounds 84,250 a year, Sir Robin says the most senior of them 'will choose either not to draw some or all of the 3 per cent increase due in April 1, 1994 or will contribute it to good causes'. He declines to say what he will do with his pounds 3,000 increase.

He said there was 'a particular problem for those in charge of departments who will be asking their staff to accept a policy which will inevitably bear heavily on them'. While he makes it clear that it will be a 'personal and private decision in each case', many permanent secretaries will fall into line, he indicates.

The source of Sir Robin's embarrassment is a staged three-year pay award earlier this year, some of which is due in April. The Chancellor's Autumn Statement, which introduced the salary restraint, failed to take into account the kind of deal awarded earlier in the year to the most senior staff.

Jenny Thurston, deputy general secretary of the IPMS union for senior specialist officials, said the memo put pressure on civil servants to accept an alteration of their contracts, and as such raised fundamental ethical questions. 'While we oppose the imposition of the 1.5 per cent ceiling, perhaps it would have made more sense to ask senior staff to accept the same restraint.'

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