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Civil Service Compensation Scheme

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:54 pm on 19th March 2019.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 4:54 pm, 19th March 2019

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I do not intend to detain the Chamber for too long; I am sure Members are more interested in hearing what the Minister has to say.

I pay tribute to my good friend, Chris Stephens. One reason why I do not need to speak for too long is that he gave such a clear exposition of the problems faced by workers in the civil service, and members of the PCS and other trade unions, because of the changes to the civil service compensation scheme. The matter has been particularly prominent recently in the area that he represents because of the changes to benefits offices and jobcentres, as a result of which low-paid workers are being offered jobs that may be many miles away from their settled workplace. They cannot take those jobs, and the only option available to them is to take a pay-off under the civil service compensation scheme, which is now being cut.

I do not want to go into too much of the excellent detail that the hon. Member for Glasgow South West set out, but I will make two points. The first point was touched on by my hon. Friend Hugh Gaffney. If this change were being made on its own, it would be a matter of sadness and there would be some hope that perhaps an agreement could be reached with the trade unions. Unfortunately, however, it appears to be part of a pattern when it comes to how the Government and the senior management of the civil service deal with their members.

In 2010 the Government implemented a two-year pay freeze, which was followed by a six-year pay cap of 1%. During that period, average salary levels in the civil service fell in value, in comparison with inflation, by between 8.8% according to the CPI calculation and 15.2% according to the retail prices index. Average pay in local government, health and education—all areas that we know have suffered from Government cuts and depressions in pay—has seen increases higher than those in the civil service; the Government have capped civil service pay rises at between 1% and 1.5%.

The Government spending review, which we are currently looking at, has set departmental budgets until 2020. The chief executive of the civil service recently told union negotiators that for 2019, funding for pay increases was 1%. He said that Departments could negotiate higher pay increases by sacrificing terms and conditions. An example of this approach arose in the Ministry of Justice last year. The management proposed a pay increase of 11% over five years, in exchange for a longer working week, cuts to overtime and cuts to sick pay. I make those points about civil service pay because my concern is that a pattern is emerging where, to put it bluntly, civil service management—or, dare I say it, Ministers—seem to have an agenda of driving down terms and conditions across the civil service.