I appreciate the frustration of many public sector workers, including those in the DWP and across the civil service, at the pay awards they have received over the last five years.
I also recognise that many civil servants and workers across the public sector will be concerned at the Chancellor’s announcement that pay awards will continue to be capped at 1 per cent for the next four years and that this will be accompanied by changes to tax credits that will effectively introduce a work penalty into the tax credit system. These measures alone could see three million low and middle income households lose around £1,000 a year and 500,000 families lose their tax credits entirely.
Given the state of the public finances and the government’s repeated failure to hit their deficit reduction targets, difficult decisions do need to be made but it is also vital though, that this is done in a fair way and that the government ensures pay awards are more generous to those on the lowest pay. The government should also listen to the findings of the independent pay review bodies if they say a fairer public sector pay structure is needed across different levels, and the government should urgently reconsider their deeply regressive changes to tax credits that were introduced in the July Budget.
I also appreciate that the government’s wider changes to the civil service over recent years – which have seen significant job losses and changes to pension contributions – have caused real anxiety for many people and I sympathise with anyone who has been affected.
Considered reform of our public services is needed but it is vital that the government engages properly with staff and unions and I fear this has simply not been the case. The government’s priority now must be to get round the table, listen to the concerns that have been raised by staff and trade unions and try to find a sustainable and fair solution that appropriately rewards the hard work of staff in DWP and across the civil service.