Barclay urged to address 'frustratingly slow' progress on pay reform

Prospect trade union calls for a meeting with the new Cabinet Office minister
Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville/Alamy stock photo

A civil service union has asked for a meeting with new Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay to discuss “frustratingly slow” progress on pay reform and demand an end to the public sector pay freeze.

The letter, which also called for a “constructive dialogue” on other elements of the government’s reform agenda, calls on ministers to stop treating the civil service as a “political football” and instead work with unions towards their mutual interests.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, which represents public sector managers and specialists, wrote that pay is a “a key concern” of the union’s members.

“For more than a decade pay levels and pay increases have lagged increasingly behind both inflation and private sector comparators with the gap widening by specialism and seniority. We have been advocates of the reform of pay systems enabling and supporting the acquisition of knowledge, skills and experience to help build capacity, capability and resilience,” the letter read.

“Despite this being a key aim of the government’s reform agenda, progress with officials has been frustratingly slow. We would welcome an early meeting to agree the ending of the pay freeze for our members who have contributed so much and discuss options for positive reform including the potential for a pay review body covering the work of our members in the civil service.”

The meeting should also cover capability-based pay and the need to retain and develop deep subject expertise, Clancy added.

Union officials are also key to discuss other areas of the government’s reform agenda, which was published as the Declaration on Government Reform in June.

The declaration highlighted “a number of areas of common interest and concern” and Clancy said he wanted to ensure the union plays a role in delivering those reforms.

Among other things, the document pledged that 50% of senior civil servants will be based outside the capital by 2030,  as well as a new system of pay, reward and performance management, including the introduction of capability-based pay for the senior civil service.

“Too often the civil service has been treated as a political football by all administrations. A strong economy and society needs a robust and properly resourced public sector with the skills, capacity and confidence needed to meet the challenges of our age,” he said.

Elements of the agenda on which Prospect is seeking a “constructive dialogue” include increasing the civil service’s footprint outside London; encouraging secondments; training for officials and ministers; and new standards for diversity and inclusion.

Congratulating Barclay on his new appointment, Clancy said the meeting would be a chance to “reset” a strained relationship between the government and union members.

“The government has set a potentially far reaching and powerful agenda. Our members believe that their skills and contributions have been neglected and taken for granted over the past number of years,” the general secretary said.

“We believe this is an opportunity to reset that relationship so we can work together on a positive agenda that delivers for staff as well as citizens.”

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