Confusion in Whitehall as the Government appears to quickly renege on earlier suggestion it would lift the Public Sector Pay Cap.
Having to change course on a previously stated policy is an embarrassment all Government’s want to avoid, but today saw what appears to be a unique first as the Government appeared to u-turn on a u-turn, or perform a ‘q-turn’ (a turn where you complete a full circle before walking off in the direction you originally started).
The drama began to unfold shortly after a lengthy Prime Ministers Question’s session where journalists were briefed by government insiders that the public sector pay cap, which has seen public sector workers such as Nurses and Teachers limited to a 1% increase in wages and has been in place since the Autumn Statement in 2013 and set to run until 2019 was to be reviewed.
But the joy for any public sector workers hearing the news would be short lived, as within 4 hours the suggested lifting of the cap was not confirmed to journalists in the regular afternoon Downing Street briefing.
Asked about the Public Sector Pay Cap a spokesman for the Prime Minister confirmed “the policy has not changed”, which prompted further questions from perplexed journalists followed by further confirmations from the spokesman that the policy had not changed.
This ‘non-announcement’ came as MP’s prepared this evening to vote on an amendment to last weeks Queen’s Speech, tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn proposing that the government end the cap.
With a slim majority and many Conservative MP’s reflecting the recent general election result pointed to the need for the party to end its association with austerity measures, this might have proved an early test for the Government and its recently agreed confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, but MP’s voted against the amendment by 323 to 309 (a majority of 14) ensuring a win for the Government.
However, amid the Government’s position appearing in disarray, UK inflation at a near four-year high and growing pressure from Public Sector Unions, this isn’t likely to be the last we hear on the matter.