Monday, April 19, 2010

More adventures in fantasy policy from the Tories

The Conservative blogosphere is awash with assertions that Liberal Democrat policy is as riddled with holes as a Swiss cheese, anything to reassure them that the unexpected surge in our support will go away if they wish it long enough. Perhaps they ought to read their manifesto first...

We have said we need to freeze public sector pay (as Labour have said also) to help reduce the huge budget deficit that is threatening our recovery. We also need to cap public sector pensions at £50,000 a year. We all have to pull together to bring the deficit down.

But we have also been clear that the pay freeze will not apply to lower earners: we will not freeze the salaries of the million public sector workers earning less than £18,000. The pay freeze for higher grades will produce savings equivalent to the cost of 100,000 jobs.

Alright, for most public sector workers, the pension bit won't effect us. However, for those of us earning over £18,000, with the consumer price index up 3% in February, the price freeze will hurt. And, interestingly, the proposal isn't mentioned in the Executive Summary, buried instead on page 12, at the end of a section headed 'Deliver Fairer Pay'.

They do say that they will stop the rise in National Insurance Contributions, saving me £150 per year, but a pay freeze will leave me about £900 per year worse off in real terms. However, they are promising to offer an incentive to work harder and better, saying that management will be able to pay me more for that good performance. But what with? If that means providing more money to pay for those incentives, and they've already promised £6 billion in efficiency savings to pay for that freezing of National Insurance Contributions, where does it come from? Perhaps they could make more efficiency savings to pay for it...  

So, here's a question or two for any Conservatives watching;
  1. How much money will be dedicated towards rewarding performance in the public sector? Do you think that this would provide you with sufficient incentive?
  2. Is that money part of the £6 billion in efficiency savings planned and, if not, where will if come from?
  3. What will be the cost to Government of obliging civil servants to do 'civic service' in the community, and employing staff to make it possible?
Moving right along, a pay freeze reduces the long-term value of my pension, which helps the Government but makes me more likely to be reliant on Government support as I get to retirement age, so it's a mixed blessing in the long term.

Oh and yes, my pension. It's apparently expensive to pay for my pension, a pension I am entitled to receive at the age of 60, thanks to the Thatcher government of the late-1980's. Yes, it was they who reduced the Civil Service retirement age to 60 from 65 in a desperate attempt to reduce staff numbers, exposing future administrations to an extra five years of pension payments.

Sadly, if the Conservatives think that such a package is going to attract civil servants, they've got another thing coming...

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