Two-thirds of the civil service’s best and brightest new recruits are so unhappy with their pay that they have “seriously considered” quitting the hugely sought-after programme, a survey has shown.
The Fast Stream brings around 1,300 graduates into the civil service every year, and the promise of a gilt-edged introduction to a career in Whitehall leadership sees the number of applications exceed places available by a ratio of around 30:1.
But research by the FDA union has found widespread dissatisfaction with pay among recruits that it said showed the next generation of leaders felt “undervalued”, and which meant the scheme itself was “being undermined”.
The FDA said its survey of 1,000 fast streamers had found that 66% were so unhappy with their current level of pay that they had “seriously considered” leaving the civil service over the past 12 months.
It said 74% of respondents felt their pay “negatively affected their morale and motivation”, while 84% described themselves as “unhappy” with their remuneration.
Central scheme participants start on £28,000 a year, rising to £32,000 a year after two years. The majortity of fast streamers are on three-year programmes.
The FDA said fast streamers felt they were being sold short. Seventy-six percent of survey respondents believed their pay compared poorly with private-sector graduate schemes while 89% said their pay was unfavourable compared with other civil service posts of similar responsibilities.
It said one fast streamer had complained their last role had seen them working at SEO or Grade 7 level for £28,000 a year, only for the post to be advertised with a salary of £38,000 when they left.
“It is very demotivating working with others who aren’t on the Fast Stream, knowing that you are being paid far less – often for doing more work,” they said.
Steven Littlewood, the FDA’s national officer responsible for the Fast Stream, said the research would be used as part of a campaign to negotiate better pay for members of the graduate programme as part of a review announced by the Cabinet Office late last year.
He said improvements should include boosting annual uplifts for fast streamers and increasing pay transparency.
“It’s clear from these striking results that Fast Stream pay as it stands is no longer fit for purpose," he said.
“When 84% are unhappy with their pay, and 89% feel it compares badly with civil jobs of a similar level of responsibility, there is clearly something seriously wrong.
"We look forward to a constructive negotiation of Fast Stream pay structures following the review and I urge all fast streamers to join the FDA in order to have a vote on the final deal."
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the Fast Stream was currently ranked No 2 in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, reflecting its appeal among final-year undergraduates.
“Fast Streamers benefit from unrivalled choice of different professions, high quality training and a leadership development programme that will prepare them to take up some of the most senior and influential roles in the country,” they said.
"The civil service values all of its staff and offers a wide-ranging benefits package, including competitive starting salaries for roles at every level.”
This story was updated at 15.45 on 22 March 2019 to include a response from the Cabinet Office