John Manzoni: Pay cap ‘can’t last forever’
Civil service chief exec says he and colleagues are "very conscious" of the 1% cap on pay rises, and suggests officials could see a more regionalised and role-related approach to increases
John Manzoni Credit: Cabinet Office
The civil service’s chief executive has admitted that the brake applied to Whitehall pay rises seven years ago will have to be released at some point.
John Manzoni told a session at this week’s Civil Service Live conference that he and perm sec counterparts were very aware that most staff had seen their pay frozen from 2010-2012 and had annual rises capped at 1% for the subsequent five years.
“Personally, I don’t think it can go on for ever, but it is fair to say that we’re very conscious of it and we need to be continuously alert to it,” he told the event, which is organised by the Cabinet Office and CSW’s parent company, Dods.
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However he also suggested that any future relaxing of constraints on pay could take a more fragmented form than merely increasing the level at which the cap is set.
Manzoni said that while civil service pay levels were a problem, there were parts of the country where its pay and reward offer was “very competitive”.
“We’ve got to think regionally at some stage,” he said.
Manzoni also referred to existing examples of the pay cap having been broken in return for concessions from staff on working hours and location, such as at the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs.
But he cautioned that the public sector would never be able to compete with the private sector offer in many areas.
“So, therefore, we’ve got to work on the importance of the job; we’ve got to work on the flexibilities of the employment terms and conditions,” he said.
“We’re excellent, I think, in allowing people flexibility in the way that they work – more so than the private sector, having spent most of my life in the private sector.”
Last month, MP-turned-chief-of-staff to the prime minister Gavin Barwell blamed the public sector pay cap for the Conservative Party’s disastrous general election result, while cabinet members Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have been among those calling for a rethink.
But speaking at the same session as Manzoni on Wednesday, cabinet secretary and civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood struck a note of caution.
“This is not an issue that we are ignoring,” he said.
“We want the civil service to be treated fairly – that’s our job. We discuss this quite frequently, particularly as inflation has ticked up.
“But obviously [...] we’ve got to be part of the government’s pay policy. We can’t just declare UDI and do our own thing because we’re part of a broader public sector.”
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