I have to admit to having to do a double take last week as the news was published that MPs were to receive a 2.7% (consolidated and pensionable) pay increase and check that we were approaching 1 March and not 1 April. As luck would unfortunately have it, the news was published just as Prospect and the FDA had finished presenting our oral evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Body. I’m sure the news will not be lost on the SSRB as part of their considerations.
The news was remarkable for a number of reasons.
First, it confirmed how much pay in the civil service has fallen behind not only the private sector but also the broader public sector. The 2.7% figure we are told is based on an ONS assessment of average public sector pay increases. 2.7% looks a long way above the 1-1.5% most of our members have received under the Treasury Pay Remit Guidance.
Second, the recommendation of 2.7% is being implemented in full. This is in sharp contrast to how the government treated the recommendations of the Review Bodies last year where SSRB recommended a 2.5% rise for civil servants which the government rejected implementing instead a 1.5% increase.
Third, MPs have justified the increase because it is the result of the deliberations of an independent body. Fair point – but whenever we have argued for an independent pay review body for members at Grade 6 and below, this has firmly been rejected by MPs.
I deal with lots of MPs. The vast majority are hardworking and in their own way honourable people. I do not begrudge them a 2.7% pay increase. I do rail against hypocrisy and double standards however.
The civil service has been singled out for the harshest of treatment. Those public servants, working closest to government and dealing with the greatest peacetime challenges to face our nation, are now the poor relation to not only the private sector but also the wider public sector. Members are angry and rightly so. When your bosses are getting almost double your pay increase and you are told you cannot get any more because of “affordability” it does more than simply stick in the throat.
As we start our discussions with the Cabinet Office on pay, ironically MPs may not have set an unhelpful backdrop.