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More funding needed if public sector pay is to go up in South Tyneside, says council chief

Coun Ed Malcolm.
Coun Ed Malcolm.

Council bosses in South Tyneside have welcomed the scrapping of the seven-year public sector pay cap from next year.

The announcement came from Downing Street saying ministers would be given “flexibility” to breach the long-standing limit of 1% on rises.

We welcome any lifting of the pay cap

Coun Ed Malcolm

Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, said the authority wants to see fair pay for staff and agrees pay caps are unfair, but he said it will need extra funding to meet any wage rises.

He said: “We welcome any lifting of a pay cap. However, we need to recognise that if they are going to lift it then we need additional funding.

“My fear is the Government will say no and we will have to meet any provision for that, which in the current economic climate will prove difficult.”

Coun Malcolm said local authorities are the most effective part of the public sector and should be given the money they need to pay their staff fairly.

The announcement of the staged scrapping of the public sector pay cap came as Downing Street unveiled a 1.7% hike for prison officers and improvements totalling 2% in police pay for 2017/18.

The end of the ceiling on public sector rises came after massive pressure from unions and Labour.

Following the national announcement, unions made clear in their initial responses that the Government move fell well short of their aspirations.

Public sector unions attacked news of more pay for police and prison officers as “divisive and wrong”.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB said: “We do not welcome this announcement, which is nothing but smoke and mirror politics that insults our public sector workers.

“Make no mistake, our members across the public services are angry after seven years of pay pinching by the Government.

“The idea that robbing Peter to pay Paul, raiding already-stretched departmental budgets, will solve this problem, shows Theresa May is living in a fantasy land, far removed from public opinion.

“It’s divisive and wrong to make an announcement that excludes the vital support staff in the police and prison services who are subject to the same pressures as their colleagues.

“How will police and prison services cope without the extra funding they need?”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s a tiny step in the right direction but not nearly enough.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, branded the increases for police and prison officers “pathetic”, on a day when the latest inflation figures showed prices rising by 2.9% annually.

The POA prison officers’ union said it was seeking industrial action over an offer which it said effectively amounted to a pay cut and would leave a majority of staff with rises of just 1.3%.

Meanwhile, police chiefs warned that the pay award would put financial pressure on forces’ already-stretched budgets and could impact on their ability to deliver services and avoid job cuts.

And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “Let me be clear today. The Labour party totally rejects the Tories’ attempt to divide and rule, to play one sector off against another. A Labour government will end the public sector pay cap and give all workers the pay rise they deserve and so desperately need.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, said review bodies and departments were being given greater leeway to use pay to address “pinch points” within public sector staffing.

She said: “What we are making sure is that we look at it on a workforce-by-workforce basis because there are very different issues for teachers than for nurses and for police officers.”

Theresa May’s spokesman said cabinet ministers “agreed that public sector workers are among the most talented and hard-working people in our society. They, like everyone else, deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are properly rewarded.

“Government will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises the vital contribution they make and ensures we can deliver world-class public services, while also being affordable within the public finances and fair to taxpayers.”