Whitehall focus FDA set to fight unequal pay offers

6 Apr 06
Senior civil servants this week threatened to launch a series of equal pay tribunals following what they described as a 'depressing' 2006 settlement that does not address the two-tier pay regime developing across Whitehall.

07 April 2006

Senior civil servants this week threatened to launch a series of equal pay tribunals following what they described as a 'depressing' 2006 settlement that does not address the two-tier pay regime developing across Whitehall.

Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior civil servants, told Public Finance that the government's failure to address unequal pay levels between Whitehall staff appointed internally and those brought in from outside 'could leave the system open to legal challenge under equal pay laws'.

Baume said the FDA was reluctant to use employment tribunals to challenge the pay regime, but added 'there is a growing feeling that there is little alternative'.

He said that the deal would lead to recruitment and retention problems with internal staff. Many, he claimed, could leave Whitehall because they were able to land higher-paid posts, using the same skills, elsewhere.

Much to the FDA's chagrin, the Treasury announced on March 30 that it would also stage high-grade pay rises for the first time since 1997, despite receiving evidence from the Senior Salaries Review Body last year that 'there are serious problems with the SCS pay system'.

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that public sector pay increases would average 2.25% in 2006, with just 1.75% spared for senior Whitehall salaries.

Overall, average SCS base pay awards will reach 3.25% after adding the effect of recyclable savings – estimated at 1.5%. Individual base pay awards will range between 0% and 9%.

Many SSRB-related pay rises – those for senior civil servants, hospital consultants and judges – will be staged. An increase of 1% (57% of all rises) will be effective from April 1, with the remainder (43% of all rises) from November.

In an internal memo, the FDA called the 2006 settlement 'a depressing read… The decision by ministers to stage implementation of the award appears to be for presentation and political reasons, as a consequence of the growing political row about the state of the NHS finances and the new contracts for consultants and GPs.

'This is a return to the politics of “fat cats”… it should be seen for what it is: the beginning of a major clampdown on public sector pay.'

FDA analysis also reveals that, while the overall increase in SCS salaries would be 3.25%, that compares unfavourably with a 4.25% settlement in 2005.

DWP staff details 'not stolen from IT systems'

An internal Whitehall investigation into the theft of thousands of civil servants' personal details as part of a tax credits scam last year has revealed that the information was not obtained through a breach of departmental IT systems.

A joint investigation by Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions found that personal details of around 8,800 staff at Jobcentre Plus, an executive agency of the DWP, were stolen through copies of paper-based documents put together to assist the DWP's staff appraisal process for 2003/04.

When the fraud was uncovered late last year, it had been feared that criminals had used Whitehall computer systems to access the information.

A DWP memo from human resources director Kevin White states: 'We have been able to narrow down how the information became available. We know there was not a breach of Famis or Uni 2000 IT systems and these remain secure.'

White also reports that the joint investigation – separate from an ongoing police investigation into the source of the fraud – found that almost 7,000 fraudulent claims were made using the stolen data.

'The… investigation confirmed that around 6,800 fraudulent tax credit claims were made using the stolen data, around 4,100 of which were intercepted by R&C before any payment had been made and around 2,700 were successful and went into payment but have now been stopped,' White's note states.

Each member of staff targeted by the fraudsters received a letter detailing the steps taken by R&C and the DWP to correct their record.

Third sector panel head announced by Brown

Chancellor Gordon Brown has appointed one of his former advisers to head the Treasury panel co-ordinating Whitehall's extended use of the charity and voluntary sectors to provide public services.

Brown announced on April 3 that Maeve Sherlock, the chief executive of the Refugee Council and an adviser to Brown on child poverty policies between 2000 and 2003, is to chair the advisory panel on using the 'third sector'.

The panel will advise the Treasury's new Office of Charity and Third Sector Finance, announced by Brown in last month's Budget.

It will have a heavy input into the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, which will detail the plans to expand the use of voluntary and charity bodies in areas such as welfare provision, social care, children's services and the criminal justice system.

The Treasury said the OCTSF would 'act as a policy and strategy network [within the department], bringing together all aspects of spending, financial services and tax policy relating to the third sector.

It will also co-ordinate the distribution of Gift Aid tax repayments – around £625m this year - to more than 60,000 charities.


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