Boris Johnson and Michael Gove must give more than 'warm words' to Whitehall staff needing a pay rise, say senior civil servants

The FDA has said every cabinet minister leading a department could sign off a pay rise for staff

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 05 July 2017 09:50
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Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now both in the Cabinet
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now both in the Cabinet

The body representing senior civil servants has said ministers must show a commitment to tackling low public sector pay by giving a rise to staff at Whitehall departments.

The FDA warned that “warm words” by the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove about workers’ hardship, will be proved “little more than meaningless platitudes” if pay restraint is not lifted.

Firefighters took a step on Tuesday towards becoming the first public sector workers to receive a rise breaking through the Government’s 1 per cent cap.

It comes as a cabinet row over spending has broken out since the election, in which a weariness of austerity was cited as a key factor in the Conservative party’s poorer than expected showing.

The FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said: “Warm words won't pay the bills.

“The majority of civil servants are not covered by pay review bodies and so those very same ministers have it within their control to lift the pay cap for civil servants in their department.

“We have today written to those ministers, calling on them to follow up their words with action. If they believe the pay cap should be lifted, then they can begin with the civil servants in their departments who support them as ministers and deliver vital public services.”

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As well as Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson and Environment Secretary Mr Gove, those who have spoken about a potential review of the cap include Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Education Secretary Justine Greening, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

Mr Penman added: “Each of these ministers will have sign off on the pay settlement for their staff this year.

“They cannot hide behind pay review bodies with restricted remits. Failure to act will demonstrate these warm words were little more than meaningless platitudes.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing pressure from a string of his cabinet colleagues to ease the 1 per cent cap on pay rises.

The Fire Brigades Union said that an offer from employers worth 2 per cent on basic pay this year and a potential 3 per cent from April 2018 showed that the pay cap was “dead in the water”, though the deal is yet to be signed off.

Mr Gove has insisted the Government must “listen” to pay review bodies that set other public sector workers’ pay, while Defence Secretary Sir Michael said pay rates were “obviously something we have to consider not just for the army but right across the public sector as a whole”.

Mr Hunt has said he has “a great deal of sympathy” for nurses' demands for higher rises.

Increasing public sector pay for 5.1 million workers is likely to cost the Treasury billions of pounds, with Mr Hammond still bound to abolish the deficit and having been lumped with other costly policies as a result of Theresa May’s failure to win a majority at the election.

Theresa May tells nurse who says she hasn't had a pay rise 'there is no magic money tree'

In a veiled swipe at cabinet colleagues who backed Brexit, the Chancellor pointed out that low pay has been badly exacerbated by higher inflation caused by the decision to leave the EU.

Former prime minister David Cameron even waded into the row, branding those calling for a relaxation of spending restrictions “selfish” because it means “spending money today that you may need tomorrow”.

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