Public sector workers facing pay freeze

It has been reported that millions of public sector workers in England, with the exception of NHS workers, face a pay freeze next year.

The BBC has learnt that the 5.5 million affected will include key workers lauded for their service during the pandemic, from the armed forces and police, to teachers and civil servants.

The Treasury is trying to bolster public finances after a huge rise in spending to fight coronavirus. Government borrowing hit its highest October level this year as spending soared to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out his Spending Review next week, giving details of how much money will be allocated to different departments during the 2020-21 financial year. Reports believe that he will make the case for pay restraint to reflect a fall in private sector earnings this year.

The Office for National Statistics calculated in September that public sector workers on average earned seven per cent more than private sector workers last year. Any gap would have further widened in a year that has seen falls in private earnings during pandemic shutdowns, while public sector wages have been maintained.

In July, almost 900,000 public sector workers were given an above-inflation pay rise - including doctors and teachers - because of their ‘vital contribution’ during the pandemic. But there were complaints that many workers missed out, and unions plan to campaign against the new pay freeze.

A report by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank that suggested a three-year freeze could save £23 billion by 2023, or £15 billion if NHS workers were exempt.