All civil servants should have independent pay review body, union says

FDA says pay system is "not fit for purpose" and civil servants are still "incredibly frustrated" over pay
Civil service pay strike. Photo: Zuma Press/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

17 Jul 2023

All civil servants should have an independent pay review body, the FDA union has argued.

The union for senior civil servants wants the whole civil service pay system to be reformed and believes a new pay review body for junior officials would help to fix the “dysfunctional nature of pay in the civil service”.

“We would like to see the civil service have an independent pay review body for delegated grades, so we can have that same robust evidence-based process and we can sort out this dysfunctional nature of pay in the civil service,” FDA assistant general secretary Amy Leversidge told CSW sister publication Politics Home.

Last week, cabinet secretary Simon Case expressed a desire for there to be one pay system for the whole of the civil service.

While pay for senior civil servants is set by ministers based on recommendations by the Senior Salaries Review Body, pay for all other grades is delegated to departments.

Last week, the government accepted recommendations from the Senior Salaries Review Body for senior civil servants to receive an average 5.5+1% pay rise. For delegated grades, the Cabinet Office has recommended departments to give officials an average pay rise of up to 5% plus a one-off £1,500 payment, with individual departments then negotiating the final award.

The higher award for the SCS has caused anger among delegated grade civil servants, as they will get a lower consolidated pay rise and much of the increases will be paid for with cuts to departmental budgets.

Leversidge said the union believes the SCS pay award is “fair and reasonable” and the two pay remits are “broadly comparable”, with the cost-of-living payment for junior civil servants this year balancing out the lower consolidated rise. But she acknowledged that civil servants are still “incredibly frustrated” with their pay.

“The worst thing you ever want as an employer is to give a pay increase and have people feel demoralised by that,” she said.

The assistant general secretary said pay freezes and pay award restraint in the last decade “created a lot of dysfunction in the system” including equal pay issues and a lack of pay progression.

“We want to see the whole civil service pay system reformed because it's not fit for purpose, it doesn't work for civil servants, it doesn't work for the civil service in terms of trying to recruit and retain people in the service,” Leversidge added.

In a statement on Thursday, minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin said the SCS pay award “strikes the right balance between fairness and affordability for the taxpayer, the government’s priority to halve inflation and the need to maintain an effective senior civil service that is able to recruit and retain the best senior talent to support the government’s priorities”.

But the SSRB said in its annual pay review report that it remains “concerned that the SCS may not be able to attract and retain sufficient leaders of the right calibre”.

A government spokesperson told PoliticsHome there were no plans for a new pay review body as individual departments have different complex needs and so need to have flexibility to tailor their own pay and grading arrangements.

"Pay arrangements for civil servants below the senior civil service are delegated to departments as separate employer," they said. “This has been the case since 1996 and there are no plans to change this.”

The spokesperson added: “This year’s pay award for non-senior grades is a significant package, including the biggest pay increase in over 20 years, alongside a one-off payment of £1500.

"The one-off payment represents a significant and generous amount, on average nearly 3.5%, on top of the up-to-5% award.”




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