I understand the concerns that have been raised about the Government’s refusal to vary the Civil Service Pension Scheme’s (CSPS) employee contribution rates, which have remained unchanged since 2019, and its decision to pass on the costs of the McCloud remedy to civil servants.
I believe that it is intensely unfair for ordinary civil servants to bear the costs of the Government’s illegal age discrimination in its 2015 reforms.
I also recognise that these concerns follows a decade of pay restraint for civil servants. Public sector pay was frozen in 2010, with this followed by a six-year pay cap of 1%. As a result, the average civil servant on a salary of £26,000 is now worse off by £2,110 a year.
The current year-long public sector pay freeze, which I opposed, combined with inflation, means – even including the £250 increase for those earning less than £24,000 – a real-terms pay cut for all those affected on over £18,000.
Public sector workers helped to keep this country running during the COVID-19 Pandemic deserve to be treated fairly. That is why I continue to support calls for public sector workers to get a meaningful pay rise when the current pay freeze ends in April 2022.
Late last year, I wrote to the Minister responsible for civil service pensions, Lord Agnew, and raised this issue with him.
I have now received a reply from Lord Agnew, who instructed the Deputy Director of Civil Service Pensions, Kerrie Cureton-Williams, to provide a more detailed response to my enquiry. I have posted a copy of both letters below for you to see.
In her response, Ms Cureton-Williams defended treating the McCloud remedy as a ‘member cost’, calling it “fair”, because it “involves increasing the value of schemes to members”.
On the broader topic of the Civil Service Pension Scheme, Ms Cureton-Williams used two paragraphs to say that the CSPS is more generous than the private sector, including with employee contribution rates.
She used another paragraph to highlight the Chancellor’s promise to remove the pay freeze in the public sector in April this year. Whilst I welcome the lifting of the pay freeze, the Chancellor has not said what the increase will be and whether it will be a real-terms increase, when inflation, currently at 5%, is taken into account.
I know that civil servants will be disappointed with this response; Ms Cureton-Williams is basically saying that they should be grateful that they work in the public sector and not the private sector.
I strongly reject this comparison of workers in order to justify the erosion of pay and conditions, especially when the same comparison is used to justify higher pay for those at the top of the public sector ladder.
If possible, I would advise civil servants to take part in the Government’s consultation on public pension regulations, which is open until 17 January:
I will continue to follow developments in this area closely and support the Public and Commercial Services Union in their campaign on this issue.