UK senior civil servants to get 5.5% pay rise – but departments must find ‘efficiencies’ to cover cost

By on 13/07/2023 | Updated on 13/07/2023
A picture of UK prime minister Rishi Sunak as he holds a press conference on public sector pay at 9 Downing Street.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak holds a press conference on public sector pay at 9 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Senior civil servants are set to receive a 5.5% pay increase next year after the UK government announced that it would accept the recommendations from public sector pay review bodies.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said that he had accepted the recommendations – which come following a series of strikes by civil servants, teachers, junior doctors and other public servants in recent months – though added that there would be no further negotiations on pay.

The pay increases apply across different parts of the public sector, dependent on how much was recommended by the independent pay review body for each sector based on their own recruitment and retention issues.

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The 5.5% pay increase will apply to all senior civil servants across the UK government, with a further 1% will be available for “progression increases for those lower in the pay ranges who are delivering in role and demonstrating expertise”.

The recommendation for senior officials is in the middle of the range of recommended pay deals for public servants, which range from 7% for police officers: and prison officers, to 6.5% for teachers, 6% for junior doctors: 6%, and 5% for members of the armed forces.

Teachers call off strike action

Following the announcement of the pay rates, the UK’s four education unions announced that they would recommend the pay deal to their members, and call off any possible strike action in the next academic year. Teachers who are part of the National Education Union have taken strike action on eight days this year, causing many schools to close across the country.

In a statement, the unions said that government would “properly fund” the pay deal for schools, meaning the money would not need to be found from existing school budgets.

Read more: AI ‘could shrink UK civil service by two-thirds’ says former UK government HR chief

Sunak urged other public service unions to also accept the pay deals and call off strikes. Junior doctors in the National Health Service today started a planned five day strike over pay, and Sunak insisted there would be no further changes.

The government has “honoured the independent pay review process”, Sunak said, and “there will be no more talks on pay”.

“No amount of strikes will change our decision. Instead, the settlement we’ve reached today gives us a fair way to end the strikes.”

Increased pay bill to be met by ‘efficiencies’

It is not clear how the rest of the pay deals will yet be paid for. In a statement setting out the government’s acceptance of the pay review body recommendations, Sunak said that government would not fund them “by borrowing more or increasing your taxes”.

Instead, it would mean that government departments will “have had to find savings and efficiencies elsewhere in order to prioritise paying public sector workers more”, he said.

Read more: UK public sector faces productivity review: policy and delivery news in brief

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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