End to austerity must mean pay increases for civil servants, unions say

Written by Richard Johnstone on 5 September 2019 in News

Spending Round cash comes amid shadow of Brexit dispute that risks permanent economic damage, one chief says

Photo: PA

Sajid Javid’s claim that his Spending Round for next year has ended austerity must lead to an end to pay restraint for civil servants, unions have said.

In a response to the chancellor’s spending announcements yesterday, the FDA, Prospect and PCS trade unions all called for the 4.1% above-inflation increase in departmental spending in 2020-21 to be reflected in officials’ pay packets.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said that “if austerity really is over, as the chancellor is promising, then the hard-working civil servants who have delivered his snap spending plans and are working flat out to prepare for a multitude of Brexit outcomes – all whilst maintaining vital public services – can hopefully expect an end to 10 years of pay restraint and a return to real term pay increases”.


Javid said that for the first time in 15 years, no departmental budgets had been cut in a Spending Round. “Every single government department has had its budget for day-to-day spending increased at least in line with inflation,” he said. “That’s what I mean by the end of austerity.”

Penman said that after almost a decade of spending cuts which have seen departmental budgets shrink by up to 40%, “there will be a sigh of relief that spending plans are at least stabilising”.

He added: “If this government is serious about tackling the major issues facing the country though, it needs to be able to plan for the longer term rather than lurching from one financial year to the next. 

“The government and parliament need to resolve the Brexit stalemate and deliver the stability necessary to address the major public policy challenges the country is facing.”

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy agreed that it was essential that the additional resources for government departments set out in the review “are used to provide a decent, above-inflation pay rise for civil servants who have seen consistent real terms pay cuts since 2010”.

He added: “This spending review comes in the shadow of the government’s Brexit plan which, on its current trajectory risks permanent damage to our economy, regulations and rights.

“Overall the spending review was a missed opportunity to make real progress on fundamental and neglected issues and will do little to achieve the economic revolution promised by the government.”

And PCS said the spending plans were like “sticking a plaster over a gaping wound”.

Promises of extra money for Brexit preparations was “too little too late”, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.

“The government has tried to prepare for Brexit by having an austerity mentality, allowing tens of thousands of civil service jobs to be lost since 2010 and imposing pay restraint.

“This is particularly highlighted by the office closure programme in HM Revenue and Customs, where we are losing high levels of expertise at a time when we need investment to deal with any exit from the EU.

“The government has claimed that freedom of movement will end on 1 November. We have not got the necessary infrastructure in place to deal with a no-deal Brexit both at our airports and ports and regarding any new customs arrangements.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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