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Struggling Government Staff Are Using Food Banks Due To Real Terms Pay Cuts

Some civil servants have needed to use foodbanks, the agency boss has claimed

3 min read

The chief executive of the Environment Agency has said that government staff have been forced to turn to food banks after stagnating wages have left them unable to afford groceries.

In a letter to environment secretary George Eustice, seen by Civil Service World, Sir James Bevan, who heads the Environment Agency described "real hardship" faced by staff working for the body who have suffered "real terms pay cuts" as a result of pay not matching inflation.

He said the "unjust" 3 per cent pay increase on offer to Environment Agency staff was significantly lower than pay rises offered to other public sector workers, including nurses and police officers.

"Those workers deserve those rises and more. But so do the staff of the Environment Agency," Bevan wrote.

"It is unjust because over the last several years in line with government policy EA employees have taken a series of real terms pay cuts, while working harder and harder. With the cost of living rising rapidly and inflation expected to hit 11 per cent, many of our people are finding it increasingly hard to cope.

"Many are now experiencing real hardship. Some are using foodbanks."

The rate of inflation is currently at 9.4 per cent, and is widely expected to rise further. 

Bevan called on Eustice to increase the 3 per cent pay rise cap for Environment Agency staff, insisting that they work "just as hard and do jobs which are just as vital for the country as those public servants who will now be getting higher pay rises".

He warned the decision was likely to have an impact on their ability to recruit and retain staff, saying there was already a 10 per cent vacancy rate across the whole organisations, with larger gaps in some of their most critical teams.

"For the same reasons, we are now finding it increasingly difficult to recruit, retain and motivate our staff. The Environment Agency runs on their goodwill – for example, to volunteer to turn out 24/7 when needed to tackle a major flood incident. If we lose that goodwill, we will lose the ability to operate."

Speaking to Civil Service World, Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said the letter "throws down the gauntlet" to other leaders to stand up for better pay.

"Many government agencies and departments are already at or beyond capacity, struggling to recruit and having to look at what services they will have to discontinue," he said.

"This throws down the gauntlet to other civil service leaders to demonstrate that they too are prepared to speak truth to power and stand up for their staff and their organisations which do so much to defend, protect, support and enhance all of our lives."

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