Government's local pay plans could cost local economies almost £10 billion a year

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date: 15 July 2012

embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 16 July 2012

There is no evidence that the pay of teachers, nurses and dinner ladies is preventing local firms from hiring staff, and government plans to introduce regional pay rates for public servants could cost the economy almost £10 billion a year, according to a report published by the TUC today (Monday).

Concerned that the government has yet to undertake any serious research into the economic impact of its proposals for the introduction of local or regional public sector pay, the TUC recently commissioned the New Economics Foundation (nef) to analyse ministers' proposals. The nef researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of the arguments put forward by the government and found little evidence to support its position.

Nef also looked into the economic impact and the number of jobs that might be created - or lost - if local pay was introduced for schools, hospitals and other public sector employers.

To examine the likely economic impact of the government's local pay proposals, nef set out to explore a number of scenarios. One approach assumed that that the government is wrong and that there is no 'crowding out' of the private sector by public sector pay.

Nef concluded that with this 'worst' case scenario where the pay of millions of public servants who live beyond London and the South East is brought down to private sector levels, as many as 110,000 net jobs could be lost across England and Wales, and the cost to local economies would be a huge £9.7 billion a year.

Even on the 'best' case scenario for ministers, where nef modelling assumed that the government is right and the pay of public servants is preventing private sector firms from recruiting because they are unable to match public sector salaries, the introduction of local pay rates for public servants would only see the creation of a mere 11,000 net jobs across England and Wales, the report found.

Yet this approach would still come at a price and would mean local economies taking a hit to the tune of £2.7 billion a year as civil servants, refuse collectors and other local public sector workers find their spending power further diminished, says the TUC.

Commenting on the report, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Quite apart from the huge hit that public sector workers would have to take in their pockets if pay in parts of the UK is held down to 'allow' the private sector to catch up, this report shows that the move would also prove hugely damaging to local economies.

'Despite the concerns being voiced by MPs in the parts of the UK most likely to be affected by the introduction of local pay rates, the government has so far refused to rule out this move that would hit public sector workers and their families - who are already feeling the financial pinch as they suffer the effects of a lengthy pay freeze - very hard.

'We hope that our report - combined with the findings of the three pay review bodies due to report back to the government this week - will prove to be the final nail in the coffin for these discredited proposals.'

Helen Kersley, Head of Valuing What Matters at nef said: 'The research finds no economic case for regional pay variations. Our research finds the government's proposals are based on flawed assumptions that are not borne out in reality.

'Cutting the wages of public sector workers is a high stakes gamble from which there will be no winners. Even in the very best case where the private sector creates more jobs, the economy would be substantially worse off overall.

'Proponents of this policy must look again at the potential implications to avoid creating further harm in a fragile economic period.'

Since the Chancellor announced in last year's Autumn Statement that the government was to explore whether a system of local pay for public sector workers might help businesses in the private sector take on more staff, a growing number of coalition MPs in 'low-pay' areas of the UK - such as the North and South West - have begun to voice concerns about what such a move might mean for their local economies and communities.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Annual net gross values added impact (benefits minus costs) under different scenarios by region

Region

High crowding out (Annual impact, £m)

No crowding out (Annual impact, £m)

London

-581

-1,281

South East

-69

-320

East Anglia

-350

-1,379

North West

-292

-1,088

West Midlands

-296

-1,199

South West

-300

-1,185

Yorkshire & Humber

-374

-1,500

East Midlands

-258

-1,029

Wales

-156

-660

North East

-199

-761

Total

-2,723

-9,746

Net employment impact under different scenarios

Region

High crowding out (number of jobs)

No crowding out (number of jobs)

London

-1,692

-11,500

South East

-1,876

-6,856

East Anglia

3,021

-13,332

North West

1,703

-11,005

West Midlands

3,710

-11,177

South West

2,161

-12,471

Yorkshire & Humber

2,726

-14,394

East Midlands

908

-11,542

Wales

229

-9,305

North East

194

-8,993

Total

11,083

-110,576

-The economic impact of local and regional pay in the public sector is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/345/EconImpactPublicSector.pdf

- MPs from across the political spectrum have voiced their opposition to the prospect of regional or localised public sector pay. The Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, SNP, SDLP, DUP and the Green Party are officially opposed to its introduction along with the Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Liberal Democrats. More than 100 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 55 tabled by Tony Lloyd MP opposing 'the localisation of public sector pay'. A total of 25 Liberal Democrat MPs and 6 Conservative MPs representing Northern constituencies have publicly spoken against the policy, while a private delegation of Conservative MPs in Yorkshire and Humberside is reported to have recently met Treasury ministers to voice their fears.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

- Congress 2012 will be held at the Brighton Centre from Sunday 9 September to Wednesday 12 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/mediacredentials and completing an online form. Applications must be in by noon on Wednesday 29 August. Any received later than that will be processed in Brighton and will cost £50. Please note that the Brighton Centre requires 60 days' notice for telephone line facilities. Details available on the link above.

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: [email protected]

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