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Sun, 24 January 2021

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Labour slams lack of new cash as ministers unveil flurry of public sector pay hikes

Labour slams lack of new cash as ministers unveil flurry of public sector pay hikes
4 min read

Labour has torn into Government plans to hike public sector pay without providing extra cash for departments, warning the move could lead to fresh spending cuts.

Public sector pay rises have been held at 1% since 2012, but ministers had vowed to scrap the pay cap when responding to a raft of reports from the independent review bodies that advise them on wage levels.

Today’s string of responses - published on the last day before MPs head off for the summer recess - marks the first time millions of workers will have received rises above that amount in years.

Classroom teachers will see the biggest uplift of 3.5%, but police will miss out on the full amount recommended. Troops and doctors are also in line for a wage boost.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd branded the plans a “mendacious PR exercise”, however, and said the decision not to back up the hikes with new funding from the Treasury would only increase pressure to make savings elsewhere.

“Based on today's announcement, after 8 years of real-terms pay cuts for employees in the public sector, our police officers, junior doctors, some specialist doctors, GPs, dentists, are all being offered a further real-terms pay cut.”

He fumed: “This will have a disastrous effect on departments close to ruin already from austerity who will be forced to cut staffing levels and services to cope."

Hitting back in the Commons, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said the flurry of announcements amounted to “the biggest pay rise in almost ten years for around one million public sector workers across Britain, including teachers, armed forces personnel, prison officers, police, doctors and dentists”.


Under the plans outlined today, most teachers will see their pay rise by 3.5% from September. However, those on higher salaries will have to make do with a 2% rise, while the most senior staff will get just 1.5%. The independent review body itself called for a 3.5% boost across the board.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “There are no great schools without great teachers and I want to us to recruit and retain brilliant teachers who are fairly rewarded for the vital work they do.”

Meanwhile, police officers will get a 2% pay hike, short of the overall amount recommended by the Government’s pay review body, which said ministers should provide that 2% rise on top of a 1% award already on the cards.

But Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the boost for bobbies represented “the highest consolidated pay award since 2010”.

He added: “I’ll continue to fight on behalf of police to ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.”

Meanwhile, troops will get a 2% annual pay rise, backdated to 1 April this year, plus a one-off payment of 0.9%.

The armed forces pay review body urged a 2.9% salary increase - meaning the Government will meet that target this year only by including the extra bonus payment.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Today’s pay award will deliver an annual increase to starting salaries of £520 for an officer and £370 for a newly trained solider, sailor or airman or woman.”

Elsewhere, prison officers are in line for a rise of at least 2.75%, in a deal described by Justice Minister Rory Stewart as “fair to our workers but also fair to the taxpayer”, while doctors will get increases of between 1.5% and 3%.

Earlier this year, ministers unveiled plans to dramatically boost pay for the wider NHS workforce, with rises ranging from 6.5% to 29% following talks with unions.

Unlike today’s announcements, however, those commitments were backed up by new money from the Treasury.

Pressed on the plans in the Commons today, Ms Truss told MPs that all departments had “been able to find savings in their central budgets to make sure those pay rises are affordable”.

But she pointed out that the Department for Education has set aside £508m from its existing budget in a bid to ensure schools themselves are not hit by the bigger pay bills.

And in a fresh swipe at Labour, the Cabinet minister added: “I think it’s a bit rich getting lectures from the party opposite about affordability, when their purported policy – along with overthrowing capitalism, making business the enemy - is to create a run on the pound.

“I don’t know how the honourable gentleman would be explain how he could afford public sector pay rises with a run on the pound.”

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