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Government sticks to 1% pay cap for top civil servants, judges and military personnel

3 min read

Senior civil servants, judges and military top brass are the latest public sector workers to have real-terms pay cuts confirmed, as the Government sticks to its 1% cap on salary rises. 

The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) – which advises ministers on the pay settlements for the highest ranks of the military, judiciary, and Whitehall – reported today.

It recommended a uniform 1% rise but raised the alarm about “serious flaws” in the civil service remuneration system.

The SSRB also warned that recent changes to judges’ pay and pensions “appear to have made the posts less attractive” and highlighted a “definite problem” with recruitment to High Court posts.

The report comes amid growing pressure on the Government to abandon its 1% pay cap for public sector workers, with a string of Cabinet ministers speaking out in favour of a bigger increase for their workers.

But Chancellor Philip Hammond has dampened the prospects of an immediate loosening of the purse strings, and reportedly told Cabinet last week that public workers were “overpaid” compared to their private sector counterparts.

Cabinet Office Minister Damian Green said the Government was accepting the pay review body’s recommendations.

“The Government greatly values the important work that public servants do in delivering essential public services,” he said in a statement.

“We understand the need to ensure that we are able to recruit, retain and motivate staff with the right skills and experience. However, there is a trade-off between pay and jobs in many public services, and pay restraint is one of the many difficult choices the Government has had to make to help put the UK's public finances back on track.

“Senior public sector workers, like everyone else, will have to continue to play their part to ensure we deliver job security for working people across the country. This will help us to strike the right balance between protecting people’s jobs, being fair to public sector workers and being fair to those who pay for it.”

The 1% pay increases, which apply from 2017 to 2018, amount to a real-terms pay cut due to inflation.

The only non-uniform recommendations were for senior managers at arms-length bodies in the health service, where the SSRB called for the top 25% of performers to hoover up the pay rise. 


The SSRB called for a “fundamental review” of the pay system for senior civil servants.

It said there was a “very deep lack of confidence” about pay awards, and warned of a “demotivating effect”.

“Our most important recommendation for the SCS this year is that there needs to be a formal review of the pay system,” the report added.  

“We firmly believe we can add more value through advising on a full overhaul of the current system rather than tinkering with the annual distribution of a largely delegated 1% of paybill.”

In his statement, Mr Green said the Government acknowledged the importance of a “more strategic approach” to remuneration in the civil service, and said “some recommendations” could be in place by April next year.  

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