Magazine article Public Finance

Match of the Day

Magazine article Public Finance

Match of the Day

Article excerpt

Public sector pay made a dramatic return as one of the nations favourite political footballs this week.

Keen to talk tough on state excess , shadow chancellor George Osborne got things started with his suggestion that three-year pay deals for public sector workers could be dismantled.

It was an unsubtle attempt to ride the winds of popular opinion. While redundancies cut a swathe through the private sector, perceptions that public servants enjoy a feather-bedded job for life - and a generous pension to boot - are beginning to take hold.

Pressure is on all parties to take a firm line on public spending, and pay levels represent some tantalising low-hanging fruit

But Osborne soon learned how risky it is to meddle with public sector pay, beating a hasty retreat just hours after opening his mouth. Clarification came from Central Office: the Tories are not gunning for current public sector pay deals. They merely wish to re-examine them for improved flexibility.

It is foolhardy to pick fights with the public sector unions right now. In these dire economic circumstances, no government, Tory or Labour, would want to see a repeat of the scenes of early last year: thousands of police officers choking the streets of Westminster protesting the home secretary's failure to honour pledges on pay. …

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