Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Senior public servants' pay to be frozen

Judges are among those whose pay will be frozen

Thousands of top-earning public sector workers, including judges, GPs, NHS managers and senior civil servants, are to have their pay frozen in 2010/11.

The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) said there was "no justification for general pay increases".

It did propose rises for some NHS managers and civil servants, but they were rejected by ministers.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the "tough approach" to public sector pay would save £3 billion by 2013/14.

The SSRB is independent of the government, but its recommendations are not binding and ministers will have the final say.

GPs, dentists, NHS managers and hospital consultants in England and Wales
Senior civil servants in England and those working for UK bodies like HM Revenue and Customs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Judges in England and Wales
Senior UK armed forces staff

In a speech on Wednesday, the prime minister said: "Part of our tough approach to spending will be our tough approach to pay in the public sector.

"So today I can say that after the reports of the review bodies we will also freeze the salaries of senior staff in the civil service, senior staff in the military, the judiciary, senior managers in the health service and the pay of consultants, GPs and dentists."

Last year, Chancellor Alastair Darling wrote to the SSRB recommending a pay freeze for 40,000 senior public servants in 2010/11, and a capped rise of 1% for a further 700,000 middle-ranking staff.

The SSRB has now published its own recommendations, but Mr Brown said the government had chosen to accept some but not all of them.

It turned down a proposed 2.25% increase in pay for NHS managers earning less than £80,000, and also rejected a call to raise the minimum pay for senior civil servants to £61,500.

Show leadership

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said NHS managers and hospital consultants would see pay frozen, as would the majority of GPs and dentists.

Lower-paid doctors at the start of their careers, as well as a small number of salaried GPs and dentists, will get a 1% pay rise.

"In tough times, this package targets the pay rises we can afford to make where they can do most good for patients," Mr Burnham said.

It is simply untenable for the government to continue freezing the pay of senior civil servants as a political device
Jonathan Baume
First Division Association

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the basic pay of officers up to Brigadier level - and equivalent ranks in other services - would increase by 2%. More senior salaries will not rise.

Prison governors, prison officers and other support grades in England and Wales will get a 1% increase, with an additional 0.5% for senior officers.

The announcement will override the final year of a three-year pay deal previously agreed for senior workers, but will not affect teachers, nurses and police officers.

Mr Darling also signalled that generous public sector bonus packages might also have to be reduced.

The freeze is understood to be devolution-sensitive, meaning it applies to GPs, dentists, consultants and NHS managers in England and Wales, but not to someone working in the Scottish health department.

But some civil servants such as HM Revenue and Customs workers in Scotland will be subject to the pay restriction.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Given the economic challenges we face, civil servants have important roles to play in ensuring there is financial stability and excellent public services.

"While the contribution of the Civil Service is highly valued, against the backdrop of the challenges facing all sectors of the economy it is right that senior staff should show leadership in pay restraint."

Our concern is that [public servants] are increasingly gaining the impression that the government takes their loyalty and goodwill for granted
Senior Salaries Review Body

But Jonathan Baume, general secretary of senior civil service union the First Division Association, reacted angrily to the move.

"It is simply untenable for the government to continue freezing the pay of senior civil servants as a political device year after year," he said.

Mr Baume also claimed the government had "insulted" staff by rejecting SSRB proposals to raise the minimum salary for senior civil servants to address "long-standing equal pay concerns" for female and ethnic minority employees.

The British Dental Association said that "at a time of transition and uncertainty in dentistry, this award is a missed opportunity to give a much-needed injection of confidence".

Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership, which represents NHS managers, said the freeze was "another chip away at the motivation" of senior health service staff.

The SSRB concluded that there was "no justification" for pay rises given the state of the public finances.

But it said it disagreed with the government's decision to focus solely on top-earning workers, saying that it was "hard to see how freezing pay for senior staff demonstrates leadership when more junior staff are receiving significant increases".

Wider freeze

The SSRB also added that cutting pay could make it harder in the long term for the public sector "to fill senior posts with people of sufficient quality".

"Our concern is that in recent years our remit groups are increasingly gaining the impression that the government takes their loyalty and goodwill for granted," it added.

The Conservatives have announced plans for an even more wide-ranging public sector pay freeze in 2011 if they win the general election.

It would affect all workers except the frontline military and anyone earning less than £18,000 a year.

The Liberal Democrats too, have said they want to see the overall public sector pay bill frozen and bonuses stopped.

Last week, MPs were awarded a pay rise of 1.5%.

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