Speculation mounts that prime minister could scrap pay cap

Speculation is mounting over whether the public sector pay cap could be lifted this month.

Speculation is mounting over whether the public sector pay cap could be lifted this month.

Prime minister Theresa May. Picture: Alamy

A story in the Sun newspaper says prime minister Theresa May is to end seven years of pay restraint for nurses and other workers as part of a package of measures to ‘reconnect with angry voters’.

A spokesperson for Theresa May refused to confirm or deny the article in a media briefing on Monday but said there was a process to follow of writing to the pay review bodies in the autumn to give them their remit.

The speculation comes on the eve of the RCN’s biggest ever rally on Wednesday, which is part of its scrap the cap campaign to end the 1% limit.

Lost earnings

Commenting on the report, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘If reports are true, this would be significant progress and a sign that the government is listening to our campaign. But any offer from the prime minister or Treasury needs to not only scrap the pay cap for future years but go some way towards making up for lost earnings.

‘If the government doesn’t scrap the cap then industrial action is on the table.’

The RCN says nursing pay has fallen by 14% in real terms since 2010, amounting to £3,000 a year.

Ms Davies said: ‘Thousands of nurses will be demonstrating outside parliament this Wednesday to ensure ministers are left in no doubt about the strength of feeling in the profession.’

Huge cost

The Sun report quotes a Treasury source as saying: ‘Lifting the cap and how we pay for it is the biggest domestic issue for us this autumn. It will dominate the budget.’

The paper says the move would be done gradually over two years because of the ‘huge £4 billion cost’ of it.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing today, the Guardian reports Ms May’s spokesperson as saying the prime minister 'has said on a number of occasions that many people in the public and private sectors feel they are just about managing. We recognise the sacrifice they are making. But there is a process in place.’

The Guardian’s blog says the spokesperson ignored media questions as to whether what she was saying meant the Sun story was true, and moved on to other topics.

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