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“We’re all in this together” . . . ?

david henckeEarlier today David Hencke, investigative journalist, The Guardians Westminster Correspondent for many years, named ‘Political Journalist of the Year’ at the British Journalism Awards 2012, posted:

“The government has always claimed that the main reason it is holding down pay in Whitehall, schools and the NHS is because the taxpayer can’t afford it and we need to cut the deficit”.

In 2011, ex-banker living wage, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for Whitehall’s industrial relations, claimed to have safeguarded the very lowest paid and attacked perks given to richer civil servants – at a time when Exaro News revealed that Ed Lester, head of the Student Loans Company, had secured a lucrative – but short-lived – payment ‘package’ where he avoided paying tax or national insurance at source, before he moved to head the Land Registry with a regular tax-paying commitment.

Hencke: “Now in the same organisation a new drama is being played out . . .”

student loans company glasgowThe ostentatious Student Loans Company headquarters in Glasgow

An interesting negotiating ploy by the Public and Commercial Services Union

Hencke related that the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Whitehall’s lowest paid, suggested that Ed Lester’s successor, Mike Laverty, could forgo a £25,000 a year bonus and redistribute it to the staff, benefiting the lowest paid. He explains:

“The union had calculated that, if all the money available, including a below inflation rise and one off £265 payment (worth £595) for those earning less than £21,000 a year, and a one-off £560 payment to those over £21,000, all 2400 staff could get an increase of more than £600 incorporated into their salaries. The few very lowest paid would get a £960 pay rise to take them up to the nationally-recognised living wage. It would benefit people working in Glasgow, Darlington and Colwyn Bay”.

Mike Laverty is unusual in that he returned some £80,000 to the Treasury last year from a previous redundancy deal when he got his new job, but his reaction to the PCS proposal is not on record.

However, David Hencke understands that the Cabinet Office blocked this move and is insisting that the bonus be paid to one person instead. His verdict will surprise few people:

“This indicates that the government has no intention of protecting the lowest paid and curb bonuses for the rich”.