A Cabinet Office minister has insisted that the government has genuinely ended the 1% pay cap for civil servants and revealed a deal worth 6.4% to Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff as an example.
Oliver Dowden, who is the department’s parliamentary secretary and minister for implementation, with HR among his responsibilities, told parliament that the FCO deal was evidence of the government’s commitment to removing the pay cap for civil servants. The cap on average annual rises was introduced under the coalition after a two-year pay freeze that commenced in 2010.
Dowden was responding to a question from Labour MP Bambos Charalambous, who demanded to know why the government was not trying harder to end austerity for civil servants, whose pay, he said, had fallen 10-13% behind workers in the NHS, local government, and the education sectors since 2010.
“We have removed the 1% pay cap, and it is up to each department to find efficiency savings and better ways of working to pay for greater pay rises,” Dowden said.
“That is exactly what we have seen. For example, the Foreign Office agreed a deal of [6.4%] on average over the course of two years, giving a pay rise but funded properly by efficiency savings.” In his original statement, Dowden said that the pay deal was worth 4.6%, but Civil Service World undertsands that 6.4% is the correct figure, and Hansard is being corrected,
CSW reported in November last year that the FCO was increasing pay for policy officers and mid-ranking staff following a damning report from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which said the department was ill-equipped to deal with the staffing challenges it would face after Brexit, but the amount had not been confirmed.
A principal concern expressed in the report was the FCO’s ability to attract the expertise it would require when it was effectively seeking, in the committee's parlance, "Premiership talent for Championship wages".
Supporting data from the Cabinet Office suggested the FCO paid the lowest median of any government department for policy officers and middle management officers, and that 70% of those leaving the department cited poor pay as the main reason, and the resultant pay deal will deliver an average pay uplift of 6.4% for delegated grades, on top of the annual pay award, which in 2018-19 was 1.5%. This uplift is staged over 28 months, with average uplifts of 3.6% in 2018-19 (with effect from 1st April 2018), and 2.8% in 2019-20 (from 1st August 2019), in a move intended to deliver a new pay structure that is more closely aligned with other departments.
The agreement forms part of a review of FCO’s structure and size that will provide greater flexibility and reduce the layers of management across the department.
Other departments that have reached bespoke pay deal with staff include the Department for Work and Pensions, whihc offered staff a pay cap-busting deal in 2016 in exchange for new working-hours flexibilities; in 2017 the Marine and Coastguard Agency followed suit with a deal worth between 2% and 20% for some specialist surveyors. Both deals were accepted and implemented.
Last year, staff at the Ministry of Justice rejected a bespoke deal from the department that would have been worth up to 11% over five years, but which unions said would have resulted in pay cuts for some staff.
In September, the FDA union accused home secretary Sajid Javid of practicing double standards for seeking to improve the pay of police staff but declining to explore a bespoke deal for the department’s civil servants.