Margaret Greenwood MP has called on the government to give an assurance that hard-working civil servants will receive the pay and conditions that they deserve.
The Wirral West MP was speaking in a parliamentary debate on civil service pay as the government is set to publish the civil service pay remit guidance for 2023-24 in the coming weeks.
Last year, government departments were able to make average pay awards of up to 2%, with additional flexibility to pay up to a further 1% if certain conditions were met.
At the time, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union described this as “an insult to PCS members who helped to keep the country running during the pandemic”.
Margaret Greenwood said in the debate that many residents in Wirral West who are civil servants had written to her to express their frustration over pay increases being limited to 2-3% in 2022-23, and that they had pointed out that this actually represented a significant real-terms pay cut given high levels of inflation.
The government’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, recently ruled out a resettlement of the pay offer for 2022-23.
He said that the offer for 2023-24, which will be finalised in the coming weeks, will be put together “in the context of higher inflation”, and that he would “expect some of that to be recognised in the sort of pay settlement” that the government are able to give civil servants.
Nevertheless, he has spoken of “wider pressures on the public finances” and the need for ministers to “take difficult decisions”. This has tempered expectations and suggested that civil servants will be left disappointed once again by the government’s forthcoming pay offer.
Margaret Greenwood MP also used the debate to call on the government to protect civil service jobs. Last May, the government announced that there would be 91,000 job cuts in the civil service within three years.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scrapped those plans when he came to office in October. However, there were reports recently that there are still likely to be significant job cuts in the civil service, although no numbers have been confirmed yet.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “Civil servants play a key role in our society, carrying out vital work to ensure the functioning of government and public services. I pay tribute to the work that they do.
“I also pay tribute to unions representing civil servants who are working tirelessly in their fight to secure fair deals on pay for their members.
“A survey by the PCS union last summer showed that 18% of respondents admitted to missing work because they cannot afford transport or fuel to get there, while 37% said that they were looking for a job outside the civil service and considering a career change for the good of their health.
“Shockingly, figures also suggest that 40% of PCS members were using food banks, and 47% were claiming Universal Credit because their pay is low.
“It is therefore profoundly disappointing that the government has ruled out a resettlement of the pay offer for the current financial year, and that they have been non-committal about next year.
“A number of Wirral West residents who work in the civil service have told me that they would much prefer to reach a negotiated settlement with their employer than take industrial action, particularly at a time when the cost of living is as high as it is.
“However, as things stand, and as we have seen elsewhere in the public sector, the government’s refusal to pay workers the fair wage that they deserve has left them feeling that they have no choice other than to go on strike to get their message across.
“There have also been reports of potential job cuts in the civil service.
“This is a matter of real concern and could be particularly damaging for the North West since it is the region of the UK with the largest number of civil servants outside London.
“The government should not need reminding that job cuts in the civil service would be detrimental to the quality and availability of the public services on which we all rely.
“The government must protect civil service jobs. They must also ensure that civil servants receive the fair pay rise that they deserve, and they should revisit the 2022-23 civil service pay settlement in the light of the cost of living crisis and rising inflation.”