At the time of the pre-budget report the Treasury hinted that they wanted to do away with local pay bargaining. Although the announcement was met with consternation in local government circles the fact that the treasury had said they were going to ‘investigate’ the issue rather than implement it meant that we all sort of treated it with a large shrug.
George Osborne is not a man to put up with shrugs and this weekend it was announced/leaked/trailed that he was planning to introduce regional pay across the public sector. Whilst I don’t think he has thought this through I guess that means that it might just be time to take the policy more seriously.
I have (at least) three concerns with the policy:
1) The politics of envy
I live in London. I know why civil servants in the Treasury, who also do, might feel like this is a good policy.
I know that the salary I earn doesn’t go as far as it would if I lived in the same town as, say, my sister. I know that house prices are high, travel is expensive and commuting times are longer. I also know that friends of mine in London often earn more than me simply because of the career path they have chosen.
However, none of these things make the policy a good idea. I realise that the higher cost of living and the lower relative wages in my current home city are negatives but equally living in London is great in many other ways (not least the range of other job opportunities in the City) and I wouldn’t trade it in for living somewhere else with higher relative wages.