Public sector pay cap 'to be lifted next year'

A member of Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet on Tuesday declined to deny media reports that the government will soon relax a pay cap for British public sector workers.

Ministers could gradually increase pay over a number of years, however, to avoid an immediate rise that could cost up to £4 billion a year.

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson refused to deny the reports, stating instead that she would not preempt the recommendations put forward by the respective pay review bodies that set the salaries of teachers, nurses, doctors, police officers and other public sector workers.

Boris Johnson infuriated Downing Street by publicly throwing his weight behind calls for the cap to be lifted in July, saying public sector workers should be "getting a better deal". "Every worker in the public sector has suffered from the pay cap, and every worker has earned a pay rise, and any pay increase must be fully funded, not simply loaded on already-stretched councils, hospitals and schools".

"Nursing pay has fallen by 14% in real-terms since 2010, now worth £3,000 each year", she added, noting that thousands of nurses would meet at Westminster on Wednesday for a demonstration over pay. Mrs May told her there was "no magic money tree". She says it shows the government is finally listening to nurses.

"She said on a number of occasions that we know that many people in the public and private sector feel they are just about managing and we recognise the sacrifice they are making", she said. "But there is a process in place and I can't pre-empt the process", the spokeswoman said.

The Sun newspaper claimed that one plan under consideration could see the lowest-paid public sector workers, along with groups with the biggest retention problems such as nurses and senior civil servants, granted a pay rise at least in line with inflation next April, with restraint for others lifted in 2019.

The RCN has been running its "scrap the cap" campaign since last year and this year promised a "summer of protests", potentially culminating in a vote on industrial action, if the government failed to change its policy.

Fellow union Unite echoed the college's concerns, describing the reported proposals as a "drop in the ocean".

Meanwhile, Rehana Azam, national secretary at the GMB, warned that the "devil will be in the detail" if the government does scrap the cap.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, who was a minister in the coalition government which introduced the freeze, said: "The situation has changed since it was first introduced, at a time when there was a real budget emergency and fear of large-scale unemployment".

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