THE government pay policy to limit civil service pay rises to two to three per cent, announced on Thursday, is an insult to PCS members who helped to keep the country running during the pandemic.
Those workers are now struggling immensely because of the cost-of-living crisis the union says.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘This announcement is a massive insult to its staff from an uncaring government.
‘Ministers are treating our members, many of whom are already struggling to get by, with the utmost contempt.
‘Our members and millions of public sector workers are facing the single biggest cost-of-living crisis that any of us will have seen for decades.
‘We must now come together to consider as a union, and in the wider trade union movement, what action we are prepared to take to send the clearest possible message to the government that we are not prepared to accept this.’
‘Our members are rightly angry and we have pointing out that our members voted by a majority of 98 per cent to endorse our pay claim, submitted in December, and by a majority of 81 per cent to take industrial action.
‘This outrage will only intensify if the government doesn’t drastically change course.
‘The scandal of the DWP office closure announcement was brought up for discussion and we told the minister that we will fight these closures tooth and nail.
‘With the adoption of hybrid working and other new ways of working, office closures can no longer be used as an excuse for sweeping job cuts.
‘In the meeting, Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office Heather Wheeler introduced the possibility of reimposing appalling cuts to civil service redundancy terms. To do this at a time of a national cost-of-living crisis is unacceptable but it’s made even worse by the fact that we defeated the government over these cuts at the High Court in 2016.
‘Members should be in no doubt about the monumental betrayal that is heading their way. This is a government that is hell-bent on inflicting untold misery on to its own workers.
‘Senior government ministers have been calling incessantly for workers to return to the office, while at the same time their government colleagues are cutting pay, cutting redundancy pay and threatening to close offices up and down the country.
‘I know just how angry this will make members feel.
‘We will keep members informed and let them know what they can do to take the fight to this cruel and callous government.’
- Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said on Thursday that departments will have to adjust to budgets squeezed by high inflation as the UK has reached the ‘limit of fiscal expansion’ after spending hit a four-decade high.
Taking the civil service headcount back to 2015 levels, as signalled by Clarke, would imply a near-70,000 reduction from 485,000 in 2021.
During a speech at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Clarke said: ‘Last Autumn’s Spending Review marks the limit of fiscal expansion, the high-water mark in our commitment to honour what we set out in the manifesto and not a point from which anyone should expect us to go further.’
The Treasury’s second most senior minister also vowed to oversee a fall in civil service headcount back towards levels seen before the pandemic after a seven per cent surge in 2021 alone.
The levels of Whitehall mandarins are ‘impossible to justify long-term and something we’re determined to reverse’, he said, as he also promised a clampdown on hefty civil servant exit payments.
Public spending is at its highest sustained level since the late 1970s at more than 40 per cent of GDP, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. Pressures from higher spending, particularly in health and social care, mean the tax burden is at levels not seen since Clement Attlee’s Labour government in the 1940s.
While the increases in department budgets set out at the Spending Review last year have been eroded in real terms by inflation, Clarke said there will be no top-up to funding from the Treasury.
He insisted that it would not signal a return to ‘Austerity 2.0’ but cautioned that ‘departments are going to have to adjust’ to the highest inflation in 30 years.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that budgets outlined in the Chancellor’s Spending Review are now 10 per cent less generous than they were intended to be. They believe Sunak would need to top up his plans by £7 billion for 2024-25 to maintain the real-terms growth rate he announced in October.
- A number of Department for Work and Pensions offices are to close, threatening more than 1,100 jobs, the PCS has warned.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said thousands of other members of staff are at risk of redundancy when other sites are transferred to new premises by June 2023.
DWP minister David Rutley told MPs that meetings were being held with affected staff. Some 3,000 jobs within the DWP are at risk from the plans to close offices, MPs heard.
SNP work and employment spokesman Chris Stephens said: ‘Can the minister confirm that the announcement could mean 3,000 jobs at risk of redundancy in the Department of Work and Pensions? And what measures is he going use to ensure that this does not happen?’
Stephens also claimed the DWP is ‘looking to close offices in high economic deprivation areas’ which is ‘counter-intuitive to the so-called levelling-up agenda’.
Rutley replied: ‘There are going to be around 12,000 colleagues who will be moving from one site to another in close proximity – around 28 sites involved there.
‘In terms of colleagues that will be affected where there is no other strategic site nearby, there are around 1,300 colleagues that could be involved.’
Rutley added that the government will ‘see what opportunities there are within DWP’ and other departments for affected staff and added that the change ‘does not impact job centres and the customer-facing interactions’.
Serwotka said: ‘Our members have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, keeping the country running, paying out benefits to almost two-and-a-half million families, helping them to put food on their table and keep a roof over their head.
‘These are the workers rightly praised in 2020 by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey as “exceptional” and in November last year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “miracle workers”.
‘But now, as food and fuel prices rise faster than ever, they’re being abandoned by the government and left to fend for themselves.’
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: ‘In closing DWP offices and cutting jobs in areas including Stoke, Burnley, Bishop Auckland, Doncaster, Southampton and Kirkcaldy, Therese Coffey (Work and Pensions Secretary) has exposed the Tories’ rhetoric on levelling up to be utterly hollow. Ministers are today cutting quality public sector jobs from communities who need them in the middle of a devastating cost-of-living crisis.’