Spending review

June 26, 2013

I was watching the Spending Review this lunchtime.  Sad, yes, I know.  But none of the people in the House of Commons that I could see on the telly gave any evidence that they knew there was life beyond the Westminster bubble.  As I tweeted at the time,

The laughter and jeering on both sides of the House is offensive beyond belief. This is people’s lives you’re dickering with, posh boys.
While I was tweeting, did I really hear Osborne suggest that “some” public servants get 7% progression pay in a year?  I’d very much like to see evidence of that, and if it’s true I strongly suspect there’s an outlier being quoted as a norm there.
Let’s look at HMRC for a minute.  Here is what a tax inspector earns. Disclosure: I was on the G7 max for years… and years… and years.  Which is fair enough – I’d qualified, done a few years to get the rough edges off, and reached the rate for the job.  After that, if I wanted more, I had to get promoted (pause for hollow laughter) or get an “exceed” (performance pay) mark.  Oh, and the pay scale used to be bumped up every now and then to keep pace with inflation but that’s gone since the coalition took power – my former colleagues are still earning exactly the same as I was when I left… only now, of course, they’re taking home less, because they have to pay an extra “contribution” towards their pensions…
And no-one’s complaining about that.  It’s a good salary, and when you’re on the top of the scale you’re getting the rate for the job, and there are people worse off.  Yes, there might be a pay differential between the public servant and the accountant working for the other side, but it’s less than it used to be and there’s no-one hiring at present so there isn’t that immediate drain on the HMRC senior staff that there was when I finished my training.
But look at this, the age and grade profile of HMRC staff and you’ll see that there’s a big “bulge” of people in the G7 and G6 grades who are in their forties and fifties.  They might all have to work on till they’re 67 and 68, but I suspect a lot of them, like me, will scarper as soon as they get a halfway decent offer.  And look at the age profile of the people coming up behind them, the “fast streamers”, the bright kids they get in from university and train up to be the next generation of inspectors.
Ask yourself how they’re going to feel when they get promoted to G7 and sit there on the bottom of the scale?  There’s £8,921 between the top and bottom of the London G7 scales, £7,758 between the top and bottom of the National scale, and a whopping £14,607 between the bottom of one and the top of the other.  Yes, it happens, people in Sheffield do the same work as people in London.  So how would you feel about it?
I mean, I’m assuming the plan is to stop the music where everyone is standing right now and take away ALL of the chairs, not just one.  And then make everyone work extra hard to get that “performance pay” if they want more.  And devil take the hindmost, the person on fourteen grand less than the lucky sod doing the same job in a different place who got their foot on the ladder before the rungs were sawn off.
(Yes, all right, I’ll stop mixing my metaphors in a minute.  I get less articulate when I get cross, and I’m very cross at the moment, in case you hadn’t guessed.)
We were discussing equal pay for women in the Civil Service last week (there’s a summary of the discussion here).  I’m assuming that, since the point of the spending review was to spend less, that the government isn’t proposing to boost everyone UP to the rate for the job, thus removing the lingering equal pay issues, before imposing the ban on progression pay?
No, thought not.
Public sector unions are fools if they don’t set up a kickstarter for the legal expenses fighting fund and get the mechanism of an equal pay court case in motion.  Because austerity shouldn’t be at the expense of equality.

One comment

  1. […] the legal route in The Telegraph.  And don’t forget I’ve banged on about it before here and here and […]

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