SCS in line for 5.5% pay rise as ministers accept review-body proposals

Hike beats settlement offered to rank-and-file civil servants but trails deals for teachers, prison officers and junior doctors

By Jim Dunton

14 Jul 2023

Senior civil servants are set to get a pay rise worth at least 5.5% after the government said it would accept the recommendations of the independent Senior Salaries Review Body on remuneration for 2023-24.

The SSRB also proposed that the SCS paybill should be increased by a further 1% with that funding directed at addressing “pay anomalies” – particularly progression increases for officials who are “lower in the pay ranges” but who are delivering in their work and demonstrating expertise.

In headline terms, the SCS deal is better than the 4.5%-5% offered to rank and file civil servants in April for the current year. However that deal has been sweetened by the government’s offer of a non-consolidated £1,500 cost-of-living payment for 2022-23, which would be equivalent to 5% of the pay of an official earning £30,000 a year.

The main 5.5% figure offered to senior civil servants is below the 7% offered to police and prison officers on the recommendation of their pay-review body, and the 6% proposed for teachers and junior doctors. The deal also follows ministers’ rejection of the SSRB’s proposed 3% rise for senior civil servants last year. Civil servants below SCS grades are not covered by a pay-review body.

The SSRB’s latest report, published yesterday, said ministers’ decision to reject last year’s headline recommendation for top officials had left panel members “dismayed” and exposed senior civil servants to a “greater real-terms reduction in pay than some other groups”.

In addition to the across-the-board pay rises and 1% targeted uplift, the panel has also proposed a £2,000 increase in the minimum pay for civil servants at each of the three SCS pay bands.

Confirming that the government had accepted the SSRB’s recommendations for 2023-24, Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said the package would be “the highest award for the SCS for many years”.

He said the decision “strikes the right balance” between fairness and affordability for the taxpayer, the government’s commitment to reduce inflation – which is currently running at 8.7% when measured by the Consumer Prices Index – and the need to recruit and retain the best talent.

Quin said an SSRB recommendation for the minimum pay for perm secs to be increased from £150,000 to £152,000 would be considered by the Permanent Secretary Remuneration Committee “in due course”.

Civil service leaders’ union the FDA said it would be engaging with departments, agencies and other employers to make sure that the 5.5% is paid “evenly across senior civil servants without exception” and that the 1% paybill uplift was “meaningfully used”.

“Ministers need to learn lessons”

Assistant general secretary Amy Leversidge said the SSRB’s recommendations were “fair and reasonable” and “in line with the rest of the civil service and public sector”.

She said the SSRB’s report and recommendations showed the benefits of a robust and independent pay-review body process that engages with all parties and is able to take a strategic approach to pay and workforce issues.

“Our public services are too important to be left at the mercy of political game-playing and short-term thinking,” she said.

“The government now needs to learn the lessons from the last 12 months of damaging disputes, by strengthening the role and independence of the pay review bodies, and tasking them with delivering the long term structural reform that will support the workforce strategies so desperately needed across our public services.”

Leversidge noted that the SSRB had also made clear it is increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on the implementation of capability-based pay progression for senior civil servants, which the government committed to in 2019.

“The absence of pay progression is having adverse effects in terms of incentives, unjustified pay disparities and a lack of recognition of expertise,” she said.

Leversidge said that while Quin had withdrawn previous proposals after concerns they would not deliver on their objectives, he had not provided the SSRB with alternatives – or a clear timeline – for any replacement.

“The minister has agreed to further dialogue with the FDA over the summer around capability-based pay and a longer-term reward strategy for the whole of the civil service,” she said.

“This will be a priority for the union, alongside a commitment to work at pace to introduce alternative arrangements.”

Departments must fund deals from existing budgets, Sunak warns

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said that the public-sector pay deals confirmed yesterday would have to be funded from existing departmental budgets.

“We only have a fixed pot of money to spend from,” he said. “That means government departments have had to find savings and efficiencies elsewhere in order to prioritise paying public sector workers more.”

He also warned parts of the public sector still engaged in industrial action that the review bodies’ accepted proposals were a “final” offer from the government.

“There will be no more talks on pay,” he said. “We will not negotiate again on this year’s settlements. No amount of strikes will change our decision.

“Instead, the settlement we’ve reached today gives us a fair way to end the strikes.”

Sunak’s comments about continued industrial action appeared mainly directed at junior doctors and consultants.

Both the FDA and Prospect, which represents professionals such as engineers and scientists in the civil service, have suspended their industrial action plans following recent progress over pay.

This week PCS, the civil service’s biggest union, said it would ballot members on ending its current strikes over pay in response to the £1,500 cost-of-living payment and improved 2023-24 offer. The consultation will run from August 3 to 31.

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