I believe a pay rise for all public sector workers, both in Oxford and across the country, is fair and affordable. Public sector workers have been subject to years of falling real wages and I do not believe that this is sustainable.
The large number of letters and emails I have received on this issue highlights the strength of public concern. Indeed, an online petition calling on the Government to end the public sector pay cap has been signed by more than 224,000 people.
The previous Coalition Government imposed a two year pay freeze on public sector workers in 2011, and in 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay until 2019-20.
A report published by the Office of Manpower Economics in July found that real earnings have fallen since 2010 and remain below their 2005 level in 2015. It claims the decline in earnings from 2010 coincides with the wage freeze imposed on the public sector in 2011 and the subsequent average 1% rise.
On 12 September the Government announced a partial lift of the 1% pay cap for police and prison officers. This will come as cold comfort for those nurses, teachers and other public sector workers who the Government has ignored and will face even steeper pay cuts on top of what they have lost since 2010. Furthermore, with inflation now at 2.9%, the reality is that the Government is still going ahead with a pay cut in real terms for police and prison officers. And for police, extra pay will be paid for out of existing budgets- something we can ill afford in Oxford, where policing is already stretched.
The House of Commons debated an Opposition motion on 13 September 2017 which called on the Government to end the pay cap. I supported the motion and it was passed without a vote, since the Government knew they would not be able to persuade the DUP to vote with them.
The pay cap is posing real problems in Oxford, with squeezed living standards being a major reason for recruitment shortages in the NHS in particular. We can pay for a decent pay rise, by cancelling some of those tax reductions by the government which benefit those who are well able to pay to support public spending.
I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.