THE GLIBNESS of Treasury chief secretary Elizabeth Truss over public sector pay neither did herself – nor the Government – any favours.
Though it is welcome that an additional one million workers are to receive their biggest salary increase in 10 years as austerity restrictions are finally eased, the announcement should be subject to the type of scrutiny that the Minister clearly resented when she was compelled to give a statement to MPs.
Leaked to the media on the eve of Parliament’s summer recess, its mishandling smacked of a botched attempt by the Treasury to deflect attention away from Brexit rather than recognising the endeavour of teachers, police officers, prison staff and members of the military. They, frankly, deserve better than the cack-handedness of the insincere Ms Truss who was irritated by her inquisition.
Formal announcements should be made annually – these are effectively employees of the State – rather than at a time to best suit the political needs of Ministers. If this change of strategy is permanent, and not a one off to buy time, the Government needs to say so. Yet the Minister’s coyness on the funding of this pay increase was also revealing. Though she said an extra £500m will be made available to fund the award to teachers, this money will be filtered down to schools – will it be enough? – while the onus is on other departments to make unspecified savings in addition to previously agreed efficiencies. Tentative economic growth only goes so far as a ‘no deal’ Brexit looms.
Though public spending spiralled out of control because Whitehall departments were slow to reform, and put proper controls in place, it was also disingenuous of Ms Truss to challenge Labour to be clearer over its spending plans when her announcement lacked the financial clarity that those concerned, and taxpayers, had a right to expect.