Government rejects salary review board’s 2.5% pay package for top civil servants

Written by Richard Johnstone on 14 September 2018 in News
News

Senior Salaries Review plans to tackle pay anomalies in SCS pay would undermine coherence with delegated grades, says Cabinet Office minister David Lidington

David Lidington warned that accepting the recommendations in full "risks affordability issues". Photo: PA

Many senior civil servants are in line to receive only a 1% pay increase next year after a pay review body recommended this across the board increase for top officials, and the government rejected its call for additional funds to address pay anomalies.

The Senior Salaries Review Body yesterday published its recommendations for members of the senior civil service, which called for an overall increase to the pay bull for the cohort of 2.5% in 2018-19.

This was made up of five elements – an across the board 1% pay rise, allocation of 0.25% to increase the floor for SCS pay bands to £68,000 (up from £65,000), £90,500 (currently £88,000), and £111,500 (increased from £107,000) respectively, and 1.25% to address SCS "pay anomalies". This would increase officials' salaries based on their position in the pay range and whether they benefited from the increase to the pay band minimums, as well as if they have demonstrated “sustained high performance, increased effectiveness and deepened expertise”.


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The SSRB, which is tasked with making recommendations based on “the unique characteristics of senior public sector roles”, concluded that the data “does not suggest there are any immediate issues with recruitment and retention” for most senior officials, although there are pressures in some specialist areas”.

However, its report added that there is “clear evidence that the pay system is not working effectively” as there has been “too much fixation on limiting basic pay increases across the board and too little attention to maximising outcomes for lowest cost”. This meant current arrangements “are leading to widespread inconsistencies”, which it said should be addressed by the suggested 2.5% budget increase.

Responding to the recommendations, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington accepted the 1% overall increase and the call to raise the pay band minimums.

However, he said that although the government accepts the recommendation to set aside further money to address pay anomalies, it would only allocate 0.25%, rather than 1.25%.

“[T]o put aside the 1.25% suggested would move significantly away from coherence between the approach for SCS and delegated grades and risks affordability issues,” Lidington said.

This leaves the overall pay package for senior civil servants within the maximum 1.5% increase that the Treasury’s pay guidance recommended for delegated pay grades, where the increases are formally set by departments. However, this guidance is subject to a judicial review after the Public and Commercial Services union, Prospect and the FDA trade unions said there had been inadequate consultation ahead of its publication.

FDA assistant general secretary Lucille Thirlby said that Lidington’s response “will leave SCS members feeling overwhelmed and undervalued”.

She added: “The SSRB recommended a significant overall 2.5% pay increase for senior civil servants, but the government has only agreed to a maximum of 1.25%, making the civil service yet again the poor relation in the public sector.

“In its own evidence to SSRB, the Cabinet Office stated that SCS median salary is lower than the private sector, which increases with seniority within the SCS.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham added that the government’s response would “do little to ensure that the senior civil service is able to recruit, retain, develop and motivate the highly skilled staff it needs”.

He added: “The review body and those covered by the body should be rightly angry that the government has refused to adopt the full recommendations made and yet again the civil service finds itself the poor relation compared to other parts of the public sector. ‘Coherence’ is now a code word for treating both the SCS and ‘delegated grades’ more harshly than other parts of the public sector.

“Vague commitments about ‘direction of travel’ and ‘vision’ will feel like Groundhog Day to many. It is remarkable that the government has been silent on addressing issues of gender pay inequality within the pay system and we see no practical proposals to address how staff are able to move through their pay ranges and how gender inequality issues are to be addressed.”

Wider reforms

The SSRB also set out its response to the government’s plans to introduce wider reforms to the SCS framework.

In its submission to the SSRB in January, the Cabinet Office set out a long-term vision for the future SCS pay system that would base salaries on professional groupings and would reward "high-performing” officials and encourage people to stay in their jobs longer.

The new proposed principles are: pay rates should be consistent for professional groupings over time; there should be greater reward for high performers and those who build skills in specific roles; and clearer rules on how people can move around the SCS pay system.

The SSRB said it “welcomes the government’s intent to undertake reform of the SCS pay structure, and to develop a long-term vision for the SCS”.

It added that this work was taking place in a challenging political and economic climate, where the whole civil service faces high levels of workload and pressure but concluded “there is a long way to go” to develop the planned changes.

“We encourage the government not to lose momentum or focus and we look forward to receiving more developed proposals in the forthcoming year on the development of the new framework.”

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