FDA: post-election spending review ‘must end civil service pay cap’

Civil service union says new government must address ‘uncompetitive’ wages in Whitehall


By Richard Johnstone

14 Jun 2017

The FDA trade union has backed a call for a post-election Spending Review to address "long-standing issues" with public sector pay and resources.

The union yesterday supported the Institute for Government’s recommendation that chancellor Philip Hammond lead a new spending settlement after senior figures, including the prime minister’s new chief of staff Gavin Barwell, questioned the wisdom of the 1% cap.


Public sector pay was originally frozen for two years from 2010. This was then changed to a 1% cap on annual pay rises, which is still in place and was due – under pre-election Conservative plans – to remain in place until at least 2020.

In a post on the IfG website, senior researcher Emily Andrews said that a new review was needed to improve the allocations of funding across government.

“Settlements in the 2015 spending review were not driven by the data, which led it into an unsustainable cycle of emergency cash injections in response to avoidable crises,” she said.

“Real issues surfaced during the campaign and they need to be addressed in a structured and evidence-based way. Otherwise the government risks using up its resources without tackling the things that are causing it political pain. A mini-spending review – as soon as it is politically viable – would allow the new government to show that it has addressed the issues which hampered it in the past.

“This exercise must go beyond departmental horse-trading: it must draw together the data on demand, scope and quality of public services, along with a realistic assessment of the scale of potential efficiencies, in order to make those spending decisions. And it should be transparent about the assumptions it is making, which will make for better decisions and better politics.”

Responding to the post, FDA assistant general secretary Naomi Cooke welcomed the call, and said the government would need to provide additional investment.

“With senior MPs and their advisers now publicly questioning the wisdom of the ongoing public sector pay freeze, it is also becoming clear that any new Spending Review must urgently address the issue of stagnant and uncompetitive pay in the public sector,” she said.

Barwell, who lost his Croydon Central seat to Labour in Thursday’s election, highlighted that public sector pay restrictions had hit the Conservatives in the election campaign.

"There's a conversation I particularly remember with a teacher who had voted for me in 2010 and 2015 and said:  'you know I understand the need for a pay freeze for a few years to deal with the deficit but you're now asking for that to go on potentially for 10 or 11 years and that's too much,’” he said.

Cooke added that an FDA survey had found that 83% of civil service leaders are unhappy with their pay, while two-thirds told us their organisation is now facing recruitment and retention problems.

This made addressing the issue of “stagnant and uncompetitive pay in the public sector” urgent, she added.

“At a moment of great political uncertainty, the people keeping the country’s public services running must have the necessary resources, and be fairly rewarded, for the huge challenges ahead. Now more than ever, Britain needs a strong civil service – and that means investment.” 

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