PRESSURE is mounting on Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond to ease austerity after Michael Gove suggested the government could support a lifting of the public sector pay cap for NHS workers.
The Environment Secretary said it is the “collective view of government” to “respect the integrity” of independent public sector pay review bodies, one of which warned in March that the 1 per cent cap is putting “stress” on the health service.
These pay review bodies have been set up in order to ensure that we can have authoritative advice on what’s requiredMICHAEL GOVE
The NHS pay review body highlighted “widespread concerns” about recruitment, retention and motivation among employers and staff and said “we are approaching the point when the current pay policy will require some modification, and greater flexibility, within the NHS”.
Mr Gove’s comments came amid claims that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to demand a lifting of the 1 per cent pay cap for NHS workers, citing the pay review body report.
The Environment Secretary suggested he was “suppressing” his own views on austerity when quizzed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on his TV show yesterday.
Mr Gove said: “These pay review bodies have been set up in order to ensure that we can have authoritative advice on what’s required in order to ensure that the public services on which we rely are effectively staffed and the people within them are effectively supported.
“I think we should respect the integrity of that process.
“I’m not an individual, I’m a member of the government and a member of a collective team and the collective view of government policy, which helpfully was endorsed by the Labour Party spokesman Jon [Ashworth] earlier is that we should respect the integrity of the process.”
His comments follow accusations of a government “shambles” on the issue, after a Number 10 source on Wednesday told reporters the Prime Minister was ready to listen to the pay review bodies’ recommendations, only for her official spokesman and the Treasury to insist “the policy has not changed”.
The Scottish Government last week indicated it was ready to drop the cap.
On Saturday night, a Number 10 source said the government was responding to the recommendations of pay review bodies which are currently reporting to ministers “on a case-by-case basis”.
The source said the pay cap was brought in to “deal with the mess we inherited from Labour” and acknowledged the “hard work and sacrifice” made by public sector workers.