Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden
Civil service unions have secured a commitment that the current Civil Service Compensation Scheme – which covers staff redundancy entitlements – will remain in place until at least the beginning of next year.
The move means that staff made redundant over the next five and a half months will continue to benefit from severance packages that are more generous than those on offer under the 2016 CSCS that the Cabinet Office was forced to drop following a High Court ruling.
Payouts are currently based on the 2010 version of the scheme after the PCS union succeeded in getting the successor scheme declared unlawful in 2017, arguing it had been effectively excluded from a key consultation phase for the updated version.
Although the 2016 compensation scheme was only in place for a matter of months, PCS said thousands of civil servants whose redundancy packages were calculated through it had received balancing payments worth up to £50,000 when their packages were recalculated under the 2010 rules.
PCS said it and the Prison Officers’ Association, Unite and the GMB had met with Cabinet Office officials last week against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations for a successor scheme to the set-aside 2016 version, and had secured a Cabinet Office confirmation that no new scheme would be introduced this year.
The union said that at 30 July meeting it impressed on government officials that, while the latest draft proposals for the next incarnation of the CSCS were “almost entirely unchanged” from those imposed in the 2016 scheme, “the political situation in the UK had significantly altered”.
In an update to members, PCS said it had argued that the “raft of announcements” made by new prime minister Boris Johnson since he succeeded Theresa May on 24 July made it hard for ministers to argue that there was no alternative to cutting redundancy terms for civil servants.
“We said that this indicated that the government’s previous position, that the savings from the Civil Service Compensation Scheme were hard wired into future financial projections, no longer stood up to scrutiny in light of this new found largesse,” the union said.
The extension has been confirmed in information for employers from the Civil Service Pension Scheme, which following an update from the Cabinet Office said “the deadline for signing up to exits under the 2010 terms has been extended to 31 December 2019”.
Prior to this the deadline was 30 September 2019, the CSPS update stated.
PCS said that it and the three other unions it is working with were now seeking to meet Oliver Dowden, now promoted minister for the Cabinet Office, in his new capacity.
PCS added that it had secured the support of shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett for its bid to block the imposition of the Cabinet Office’s currently proposed revision to the CSCS. It said discussions were also due to take place with the Democratic Unionist Party on the issue.
The Prospect and FDA unions signed up to the government’s 2016 CSCS proposals and did not support the legal challenge, fearing ministers would want to impose even less favourable terms in the event of PCS’ success.
Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said the professionals’ union had consistently argued for the retention of the 2010 CSCS package.
“Frances Maude – the then minster for the Cabinet Office – described them as ‘fair for the taxpayer’ and ‘right for the long term’ and that they provided the basis of an enduring agreement,” he said.
“At a time when the government has never been so reliant on the hard work and professionalism of the civil service, ministers should be thanking them for their efforts not attacking their terms and conditions of employment.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed consultations were ongoing with Whitehall’s trade unions over the reforms to the compensation scheme.
“It is important to put in place sustainable compensation terms that strike a balance between providing fair redundancy payments to individuals and value to the taxpayer,” they said.
This story was updated at 15:00 on 8 August 2019 to include comments from Prospect and the Cabinet Office