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Michael Gove suggests public sector pay cap should end

John Ashmore

2 min read

Theresa May is under pressure to scrap the public sector pay cap, with Michael Gove telling fellow ministers to "respect" the recommendations of pay review bodies.

The new Environment Secretary spoke out as a leaked document showed Conservative HQ is looking for fresh policy ideas to attract public sector workers whose wages have been held down. 

Since 2013 pay rises across the public sector have been effectively capped at 1%, although some workers have been able to increase their salaries through promotion. 

Review bodies looking at police and teachers' pay are both set to report this month, with a chance both will recommend increases above 1%.

The Tories' poor general election campaign has led several MPs to question whether it is time to lift that cap, although the Government did not accept a Labour amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for such a move. 

Mr Gove, who was recently brought back to the front bench after being sacked as Justice Secretary in 2016, said it was time to let independent pay review bodies make a decision on pay.

"You've got to listen to the public sector pay review bodies," the former education secretary told the Sunday Times.

"When they made recommendations on school teachers' pay, I think I always accepted them.

"My colleagues who deal with these pay review bodies would want to respect the integrity of that process."

The same paper reports a new document circulating from Tory head office seeking fresh policy ideas. “What does the party offer the nation’s 7m pay-capped public sector workers?” the document asks.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is under pressure from colleagues to loosen the cap, with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apparently calling for a pay rise for NHS nurses, a move backed by Education Secretary Justine Greening and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

At a Cabinet meeting last week Mr Hammond insisted any changes would have to wait until the Budget this autumn, although an unnamed minister told the Sunday Times it was imperative the Government should act sooner.

“If a public sector pay review body says bust the cap, which I’m sure they will, are we going to say no?" they said. 

"If there is a strike involving nurses, do we really think we are going to see that through for 12 months? We need to get on the front foot.”

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