Government accused of PR stunt over public sector pay rises

Critics say in some cases the increases will be below inflation

Tuesday 24 July 2018 23:52 BST
School leaders accused the Treasury of abdicating its responsibility for funding
School leaders accused the Treasury of abdicating its responsibility for funding (Getty/iStock)

The Labour Party has accused the government of carrying out a PR stunt after it was announced that public sector workers will receive their biggest pay rise in nearly a decade.

Elizabeth Truss the chief secretary to the Treasury confirmed that school teachers, prison officers, members of the armed forces, police, doctors and dentists will see their pay rise between 2 per cent and 3.5 per cent. But critics said that in some cases pay rises were below inflation.

Members of the armed forces will receive an increase of 2.9 per cent (2 per cent consolidated, 0.9 per cent non-consolidated), with the award worth £680 in pay to an average soldier, plus a one-off payment of £300.

All prison officers will get at least a 2.75 per cent (2 per cent consolidated, 0.75 per cent non-consolidated) increase this year, with many getting higher awards.

Unions and opposition parties raised concerns that the pay awards were not fully funded, warning of fresh cuts to services and jobs.

Labour said the government was “raiding” already underfunded budgets of schools, hospitals, prisons, police services and armed forces for what amounted to a real terms pay cut.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “By increasing the pay levels, albeit by less than the rate of inflation, that can only be paid for by cuts within the public services.

“And so, if it’s local authorities or anybody else, they’re going to have to pay for it by either removing their balances, which they shouldn’t be doing, or by cutting services further.”

Peter Dowd, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said that the announcement was a “mendacious PR stunt”. He added: “Today’s announcement shamefully takes money away from our schools, hospitals, prisons, police services and armed forces to fund pay allocations for valued public workers.

“Real wages in the public sector are lower today than they were in 2010, yet the reality of today’s announcement is that on top of eight years of cuts to frontline services, and job losses, our police officers, some junior doctors, specialist doctors and dentists are being offered real terms pay cuts.”

Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, said the pay rises for doctors and dentists recognised their “value and dedication”.

From October, a consultant that started work in 2013 will have seen a 16.5 per cent increase in their basic pay, rising to a salary of £87,665 from £75,249, it was announced.

Ministers said the pay rises were worth between £1,150 and £1,550 for consultants, between £1,140 and £2,120 for speciality doctors, between £1,600 and £2,630 for associate specialists, between £532 and £924 for junior doctors, and around £1,052 for a salaried GP with a median taxable income of £52,600.

But the British Medical Association said it was “truly astonishing” that the government had “ignored” recommendations from the independent pay review body.

Dr Anthea Mowat of the BMA said: “Just last week the new secretary of state talked about how ‘heartbreaking’ it was to see how ‘undervalued’ NHS staff feel.

“Considering those words, doctors in England will rightly feel both anger and disappointment that sentiment has not been matched with action.

“Since 2008, doctors have experienced the largest drop in earnings of all professions subject to pay review bodies, with consultants seeing a 19 per cent fall in pay, junior doctors 21 per cent and GPs 20 per cent.

“The effective pay uplift this year for some doctors will be as little as 0.75 per cent, which will be widely seen as derisory.”

Ministers also added that teachers would be in line for a pay rise of up to 3.5 per cent which equates to £1,366 a year.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Schools and parents will be dismayed that schools will have to find more than £250m from their already stretched budgets.

“We are concerned, too, that the Department for Education will be forced by the Treasury to make unacceptable cuts to other parts of its education budget and we will monitor this carefully.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “By abdicating responsibility for funding these awards, the Treasury has forced the Department for Education to scramble for money within their own department.

“We will have to wait to see what cuts have to be made elsewhere to find this money but it seems like a false economy by the government.”

A police award of 2 per cent was announced and will mean average pay for a constable will now be more than £38,600 a year.

Dan Murphy, national secretary of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: “A look beyond the headlines of both this year’s and last year’s pay announcements makes it clear that the government is not treating officers fairly.

“What is also clear is that the government does not understand the importance the police service places on the recommendations of the independent review body for pay.”

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said the pay settlements were not good enough.

“Many public sector workers will still get pay settlements that are less than inflation, so the pay misery will continue and it’s not clear if all the rises will be properly funded by the Treasury or will instead come from raiding budgets for frontline services,” Ms O’Grady said.

Agencies contributed to this report

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