Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Chancellor attacked over comments on public sector pay

Chancellor attacked over comments on public sector pay

Unions have today slammed chancellor Philip Hammond for showing "arrogant contempt" to public sector workers after he reportedly said that they were "overpaid".

The Sunday Times cited five unidentified sources as saying Hammond had described public-sector workers as "overpaid" during the cabinet meeting last week, while Saturday's Sun newspaper reported that Hammond made a sexist comment about women driving trains.

It was said that when female colleagues looked askance at his comments, Mr Hammond tried unsuccessfully to dig himself out of the hole he had created, which prompted the Prime Minister to intervene, saying: "Chancellor, I am going to take your shovel away from you".

The comments are likely to spark a backlash with public sector workers, who have been campaigning for the current 1% pay cap to be lifted.

It was later claimed that Mr Hammond had told his Cabinet colleagues pushing for public sector pay rises that workers in public services were "overpaid" in comparison to their private sector peers.

"But when you take into account the very generous contributions that public sector employers have to pay in for their workers' pensions, their very generous pensions, they are still about 10 per cent ahead".

Earlier on Sunday, finance minister Philip Hammond had said senior British government ministers were becoming convinced of the need for transitional arrangements to reduce disruption as Britain leaves the EU.

'The Government holds pay awards below inflation and forces year-on-year pay cuts on public sector workers.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told Cabinet members engaged in such behavior to "just for once shut up for God's sake" as there is "no mood" among backbench Tories for a leadership contest.

"Their view is they want Theresa to get through, get through the Brexit stuff she's already said at some point she'll then step down and their view is 'none of the above".

A "livid" London Ambulance driver explained to John Stapleton about the financial struggles he faces on a daily basis thanks to the public sector pay freeze, before breaking down in tears live on the radio.

Meanwhile, Hammond said businesses were holding off on investment where they can.

"We do keep this under constant review and I think the fact that is apparently now well known the Cabinet has been discussing this issue sends a clear signal that we do understand the concern both of public sector workers and of the wider public", he said.

That caused some general astonishment. "It's time to give all of our hard-working public servants the pay rise they've earned".

"We're into a real process now with the start of negotiations and I think you'll find the cabinet rallying around a position that maximises our negotiating leverage and gets the best possible deal for Britain".

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