A ‘Pay Freeze’ which doesn’t freeze pay
We live in a time of austerity and many pretty tough steps are going to have to be taken to get through it.
We may all disagree about the scale of the problem or the necessity of quick cuts but in general most sentient human beings (Bob Crowe is, in my humble opinion, neither) acccept that some cuts will be needed.
With this in mind the salaries of public sector workers seem to be a relatively controversy free place to start. This is not because local government workers are necessarily overpaid (more discussion on that another day) or because they are an easy target (see Eric Pickles) but because cutting salaries spreads the pain on lots of people and doesn’t lead to a reduced service.
Thus, in George Osborne’s first budget he announced a pay freeze for those on salaries over £21,500 and a relatively small increase for everyone else. This doesn’t apply to local Government but we had a freeze last year and undoubtedly will have one again; however…
Joe Bloggs on the street would believe that a pay freeze meant that a member of staff being paid £25,000 in year 1 would be paid £25,000 in year 2. Not so.
In fact local government employees operate on a scale system with so called ‘spinal points’. Each year employees automtically go up one spinal point with a maximum of five available without promotion. Assuming that most staff receive a promotion every five years or so this means that nearly everyone’s pay is rising every year (this is a bit disingenuous as some older staff have done the same job for many years; however, it’s amazing how many now have the word senior in their title and thus accessed another five years or autoincreases). The rise is obviously not as much as they would have without the pay freeze but it’s going up anyway.
It’s not that I’m against pay rises or performance related pay, or even salaries reflecting organisational knowledge and skills picked up through longevity, it’s just that surely a pay freeze should mean just that; a freeze on pay. The risk is that by allowing the system to continue as it does the impact of the freeze is lessened and then we have to make more cuts that we would have previously which surely is in no-one’s interest.