With just 48 hours before parliament ends for summer, Theresa May gets a depressing end-of-term gift

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Emily Apple

With under 48 hours left before parliament goes on its summer holidays, Theresa May perhaps thought that things couldn’t get any worse. But she was wrong. Because the beleaguered Prime Minister has just received a frustrating end-of-term present. From her own experts.

The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) – the body that sets the salaries for NHS managers, military officers, and top civil servants – has warned the government that the 1% public sector pay cap was causing staff to become “frustrated and demotivated”.

What’s the point?

The SSRB even went as far as questioning its own existence, given that the government seems to ignore its findings:

If the government continues to see value in having an independent body to advise on senior salaries, we believe that some serious reflection is required about how to make better use of it.

And it added that the continued cap would cause “recruitment and retention risks and fragile morale”.

And that’s at the top end

Meanwhile, it’s those at the other end of the spectrum that are really suffering under the cap. These include nurses and police officers forced to used food banks.

And it is also echoed in recruitment. There is such a shortfall of teachers in maths, physics and language jobs that the government is spending £10m to recruit and train teachers from overseas. And 12% of all NHS staff in England are non-UK nationals.

Give it some teeth

When MPs were awarded a 1.4% pay rise by the parliamentary pay watchdog, they claimed they were forced to take it. This is because MPs aren’t allowed to vote on their own salaries; they have a clause that links them directly to the Office for National Statistics’ calculation of average public sector pay.

But no other public sector workers have the same security. A simple solution would be to give the pay review bodies some teeth. Take the control away from parliament and have public sector pay set fairly and accountably.

A government in crisis

The Conservatives are in crisis; squabbling amongst themselves over the public sector pay cap, Brexit, and pretty much everything on the political agenda. And with less than 48 hours to go before the end of parliament, the SSRB has given Theresa May yet another frustrating issue to really chew over while she’s on holiday.

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