Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated that he may disregard recommendations for public sector pay rises. Emphasizing that workers “need to recognize the economic context we are in.” Speculation emerged over the weekend that the prime minister intended to block forthcoming proposals from public sector pay bodies. As part of efforts to address surging inflation in the country.
Unions and opposition parties have criticized the rumoured decision, arguing that inflation is not driven by the wages of nurses and teachers. But rather by the economic policies implemented by the Conservatives during their 13-year tenure in power.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that inflation remained at 8.7%, while the Bank of England raised interest rates to 5%, reaching a 15-year high.
When asked by broadcasters today whether public sector pay significantly contributes to inflation, Sunak responded, “Government borrowing is something that would make inflation worse, so the government has to make priorities and decisions about where best to target our resources. And that’s why when it comes to public sector pay, we need to be fair, but we need to be responsible as well.”
Public sector pay rise in 2023
Each year, pay review bodies (PRBs) gather evidence from various sectors such as the NHS and education. As well as submissions from the government, before making recommendations on wage increases for the following 12 months.
Following unions’ dissatisfaction with last year’s figures failing to match inflation. Health Secretary Steve Barclay stressed the importance of “continuing to defer to that process to ensure decisions balance the needs of staff and the wider economy.”
The PRBs’ recommendations are anticipated to be published next month, along with formal pay offers. Reports suggest that they could propose around 6% wage increases for the health service and 6.5% for teachers.
However, while being questioned about public sector pay, Sunak underscored the need to avoid exacerbating the inflation situation and to prioritize appropriate measures. He stated, “I am making the decisions that are right for the long term, and that is what I am going to continue doing.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting Criticizes Conservative Party’s Economic Policies
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, did not commit to his party accepting the recommendations if they were to assume power in the next election. Nevertheless, he expressed the desire to restore confidence in the PRBs and stated. “It is not working people who have driven our economy off the cliff. It is the Conservative Party. We are still paying through the nose for that disastrous mini-budget that all of those Conservative MPs cheered on.”
Streeting emphasized the financial burdens faced by individuals due to rising costs. Including mortgages, bills, weekly groceries, and energy prices. He called for a comprehensive plan to revive economic growth and criticized Britain for being an outlier compared to other economies.
As discussions surrounding public sector pay continue. The government’s stance has ignited debate regarding the balance between supporting workers and addressing broader economic challenges. The prospect of contentious decisions on pay rises in the coming months.