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Minister Says He Can't “Guarantee” Above-Inflation Pay Rise For Public Sector

Announcing the end of the public sector pay freeze, Mr Sunak saidSunak said it was "right that nurses, teachers and all the other public sector workers who played their part during the pandemic see their wages rise." (Alamy)

3 min read

Small business minister Paul Scully was unable to confirm if public sector workers will get a real-term pay rise in April amid concern that inflation could outstrip any boost to their pay.

On Monday the Treasury announced that the year-long public sector pay freeze, brought to mitigate the costs of the Covid pandemic, will be brought to an end.

Rishi Sunak will announce in his Budget on Wednesday that over five million public sector workers, such as nurses, teachers and the armed forces, will see a boost to their salary next year.

He is also set to announce a 6.6% increase in the national living wage, bringing it from £8.91 an hour to £9.50.

The exact increase for the public sector workers in the 2022-23 financial year is yet to be determined, and the government will take into account recommendations from independent pay review bodies in each sector.

Concerns over rising inflation, however, mean public sector workers could still face a real-term cut if their pay rise is outstripped by inflation, which currently stands at 3.1%, and is predicted by the Bank of England to reach 5% in the coming months.

Scully has today said he "can't guarantee" that the pay rise will outweigh inflation as "it's not my decision to make".

“But the chancellor has clearly indicated that he wants to end the pay freeze and reward public sector workers by giving them an increase,” he told the BBC. 

Scully added: “We want to make sure that we can end that pay freeze. 

“What the pay review bodies will do, they will look at the latest evidence, and we'll work alongside them, to make sure that we can give them that pay rise.”

Also appearing on Sky News this morning, Scully was unable to reassure that the cost of living would not surpass pay for public sector wages as inflation grows. 

“I can’t make those assumptions in terms of inflation and other costs at this moment in time, what I’m going to say is that pay packets are going to go up by 6.6% if they are on the national living wage at the moment,” he said. 

Announcing the end of the public sector pay freeze, Sunak said: "The economic impact and uncertainty of the virus meant we had to take the difficult decision to pause public sector pay.

"Along with our Plan for Jobs, this action helped us protect livelihoods at the height of the pandemic.

"And now, with the economy firmly back on track, it's right that nurses, teachers and all the other public sector workers who played their part during the pandemic see their wages rise."

But Labour has described the government’s pay offer as “underwhelming”, and argued the plan “works out at £1,000 a year less than Labour’s existing plans for a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour for people working full-time”.

“Much of it will be swallowed up by the government’s tax rises, Universal Credit cuts and failure to get a grip on energy bills,” said shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson.

Christina McAnea, general secretary of UNISON, which represents 1.3 million workers, has warned that the pay freeze will continue “in all but name” if government departments are allocated more money to fund pay rises.

"There can be no decent public services without the people to run them. Pay freezes don't help employers hold on to experienced staff, nor attract new recruits. 

"But if the chancellor doesn't allocate extra money to government departments to fund the much-needed wage rises, the pay freeze will continue in all but name." 

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