On Monday, I was pleased to secure an Adjournment Debate on Civil Service Pay.
In my lengthy contribution, I highlighted the decade of pay austerity seen in the civil service resulting in a fall in living standards for public sector workers of around 20%.
Reading powerful accounts from more than a dozen DWP staff, I explained how the failure for wages to grow in line with inflation had forced civil servants to rely on food banks, had put many employees into massive debt and had forced others to choose between heating their homes and buying food.
These workers have been badly let down by this UK Government, with Ministers constantly changing their position on public sector pay in the last five years, while employees have been left shortchanged for their work.
If borrowing is up, they say they cannot afford pay raises, and if inflation is going up, they say the same.
Despite the squeeze on living standards, private sector wages are increasing, but the Government have simply ignored that comparator. The Government need to stop doing this and start taking responsibility for the welfare of the staff.
If the Chancellor is sincere in his announcement to lift the public sector pay freeze, he will place “no arbitrary cap on pay awards” in any civil service pay remit guidance.
The UK Government must also end the delegated pay system, which passes the buck on pay setting to individual departments. Another area where the Government always seems keen to change its position.
They claim they cannot direct departments with delegated authority on pay, yet they persist in centrally mandating things that departments must do.
Last year, the Government instructed all departments to pay £250 to staff earning below £24,000 a year. It is, therefore, demonstrably the case that the Government are the single source from which all civil service pay arrangements emanate.
Sadly, Paymaster General Michael Ellis did not address the need to revisit pay delegation in his response. However, in his speech, I welcome a commitment from him to reduce the number of separate pay negotiations taking place across the civil service, which, as I highlighted, total more than 200.
In response to my contribution, I was also able to get government commitments that public sector pay rises in the next three years would have “broad parity with that of the private sector”.
However, the Government’s response clearly fell a long way short of giving those working in the public sector reassurance they deserve on their pay.
I will continue to hold this Government’s feet to the fire on public sector pay. Not only to meet the commitments they have already outlined but go further to reward the excellent public sector staff fairly for their dedication and excellence that have kept our public services going during the pandemic.