Senior Tories are putting May under pressure to axe the public sector pay freeze

LONDON — The cabinet is putting pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond to end the public sector pay cap which has frozen pay for public workers since 2010.

A number of senior ministers have suggested that the Treasury should ditch a number of austerity measures in response to public weariness, including the cap introduced by former Prime Minister David Cameron that has seen public sector pay frozen at one per cent rises for the last seven years.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said on Wednesday that above-inflation wage increases for the public sector is something that government must think about enacting.

“This is something we have to consider, not just for the army, but right across the public sector as a whole,” he said.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is another cabinet minister who has spoken about the possibility of reversing the policy of the 1% pay cap, telling the BBC ministers would “have to think through” proposed changes.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will increase pressure on Chancellor Hammond by asking him to agree a better deal for nurses, the Times reports. The newspaper says Hunt will use a “very constructive letter” from the Royal College of Nursing in an attempt to persuade Hammond to relax the pay cap.

On Wednesday the Conservative minority government defeated a Labour amendment which called for an end to the public sector pay cap plus a reversal of cuts to public services. The Tories defeated the amendment with the aid of the Democratic Unionist Party by 323 votes to 309.

However, on the same day, Prime Minister May appeared to perform a double u-turn on the issue of the public sector pay cap. The prime minister’s spokesperson first told the press that the government would look again at the policy, before changing tack and insisting later in the day that “the government policy has not changed”.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell described the confusion as a “shambles” in a tweet posted yesterday.

 A number of Tory MPs have urged the government to ease its austerity programme ever since May failed to retain her parliamentary majority at the June 8 general election, including backbenchers like Heidi Allen. She tweeted:

Another Conservative MP, Sarah Wollaston, told the Guardian: “I’d agree with the points that have been made that it’s time for us to think again about the impact of the public sector pay cap, because there’s no doubt in my mind that seven years of this cap is now having a significant impact on morale within the health service, and across our wider public sector.”

The 1% pay rise cap for public sector workers has been in place since 2012 and is expected to remain until at least 2018/19.

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