Public sector workers are likely to see an end to the 1% cap on annual pay rises that has been a plank of the Conservative Party’s deficit reduction strategy over the past five years, former civil service head Lord Bob Kerslake has said.
The crossbench peer said the “extraordinary” outcome of prime minister Theresa May’s snap election – envisaged as delivering a Conservative landslide – would reset the dials of policies originally introduced in 2010 to rein-in public spending.
Kerslake said that the Coalition government’s initial two-year pay freeze, which subsequently became a cap on annual pay rises that has seen key public sector workers lag hugely behind private sector raises, would have to be re-thought.
“It’s hard to see any party doing austerity now,” he said.
“The landscape is changing, and the consensus on public-sector pay will have to be revised.”
Speaking to CSW today, Kerslake said the pay freeze had not only directly influenced voting decisions in yesterday’s poll, but its implications for the provision of services such as health and social care were also inextricably linked to issues close to voters hearts.
Kerslake added that he believed May’s authority as prime minister had now been “shattered”.
“I wonder how it’s tenable for her to continue,” he said.
Echoing earlier comments from former cabinet secretary and civil service head Lord Gus O’Donnell, Kerslake said he believed the legislative challenges that a minority Conservative government would face were likely to make the “already time consuming” groundwork for Brexit “a lot harder and more time consuming”, particularly in relation to the Great Repeal Bill aimed at repatriating EU law to the UK statute books.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, agreed with Kerslake’s assessment on the end of austerity.
“The majority of the electorate voted for parties committed to investing in our public services and ending the arbitrary 1% cap on public sector pay,” he said.
“The next government would be foolish and foolhardy to ignore the wishes of the electorate.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union said the results showed “huge enthusiasm for an alternative to the Conservatives' failed policies of austerity”.
“Planning for Brexit in the civil service is chaotic,” he said. “Cuts in civil service staffing must end, and more resources must be pumped in urgently.”