LONDON – The Conservative government has officially lifted the 1% cap on pay rises for police and prison officers, it was confirmed today.
Prime Minister Theresa May has lifted the cap to 1.7% for prison officers from 2017/18 and a one-off increase of 2% for police officers for only the years 2017/18.
Rises for other parts of the public sector will be considered next year, Downing Street sources suggest.
The decision to scrap the 1% cap on police and prison officer pay rises was agreed in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, a spokesperson for Number 10 Downing Street told Business Insider.
The rises will be funded from existing departmental budgets, meaning savings will have to be found elsewhere.
“The Cabinet agreed that our public sector workers are among the most talented and hard-working people in our society. They like everyone else deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are rewarded,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said.
The spokesperson indicated that while restraint on pay was still required, other parts of the public sector would also see rises.
“The government recognised in some parts of the public sector, especially in areas of skill shortage, more flexibility may be required, to deliver word class public services,” they said.
“The decision recognises the vital contribution our public service workers make… while also being affordable,” they insisted.
‘Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’
However, unions said the fact rises would come out of existing budgets meant the government was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
“We do not welcome this paltry announcement, which is nothing but smoke and mirror politics that insults our public sector workers,” Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said.
“Make no mistake, our members across the public services are angry after seven years of pay pinching by the government.
“The idea that robbing Peter to pay Paul, raiding already stretched departmental budgets will solve this problem shows Theresa May is living in a fantasy land, far removed from public opinion.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also rejected the rise, saying that it amounted to a continuation of real-terms cuts to pay given that it was below inflation.
“A pay cut is a pay cut. We must be united in breaking the pay cap for all workers,” he told the TUC conference.
He also accused the government of playing “divide and rule” by giving rises to some workers and not others.
Public sector pay was frozen for two years by the Conservative government led by David Cameron in 2010, and since 2013 rises have been capped at 1%. The increased caps are still below the current rate of inflation which was announced today as 2.9%.
Police and prison officers were the last group of public sector workers to see their annual pay award for the coming year.
Downing Street sources indicate that today’s decision is likely to be used as a precedent for other public sector workers such as nurses and teachers to see their pay rise in real-terms.