NHS pay cartel plan for Devon and Cornwall is 'dead'
The death knell has been sounded for Government plans to end uniform national pay scales in the public sector, which critics claim would lead to pay cuts across the Westcountry.
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday announced in his autumn financial statement that proposals for local salaries for state workers have been ditched after independent pay review bodies advised against them.
Separately, MPs have claimed proposals to pay NHS workers in the South West a different rate to staff elsewhere in the country, dubbed a cartel by unions, are "dead" after a health minister promised to intervene.
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said that meant "thousands of Westcountry NHS workers are getting an early Christmas present".
In a sign of losing patience with health chiefs, Daniel Poulter, the minister, is to write to NHS trusts and hospitals in the South West Pay Consortium urging them to abide by national pay scales.
However, the consortium of 19 health trusts, including organisations running hospitals in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro, insist the Chancellor's announcement has no bearing on its review of staff terms and conditions.
Yesterday, the Chancellor announced that national pay arrangements in the NHS and prison service will continue, and there will be no changes to civil service arrangements. But schools will be given greater freedom to set pay in line with performance.
Advocates of local public sector pay said the principle would ease the problem the private sector faces in recruiting staff on generous state salaries in low-paid areas.
But opponents contend it is unfair professionals doing the same job are paid differently depending on where they live.
St Austell and Newquay Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert, who campaigned against local pay, said: "I believe that our hard working public sector employees deserve a fair wage for the work they do – no matter where they live.
"The announcement that the Government won't be pursuing these devastating plans is a victory for people power and the work that has been done by unions and public sector employees to lobby the Government."
He added: "I will be looking closely at what the Government is planning for teachers to ensure no teachers lose out if changes are made."
The announcement followed a Whitehall summit with the health minister and a cross-party delegation of MPs from the greater South West who are concerned about NHS "postcode pay".
Lib Dem MP for St Ives Andrew George, who sits on the Health Select Committee and led the delegation, said: "We asked the minister to write to the 19 health trust members of the consortium to encourage them to now respect national negotiations.
"We expect that they will come back into line early next year; partly as a result of the pressure they are under, but also because we believe that they now recognise that varying nationally negotiated pay and conditions would be counter-productive as well as more costly and disruptive for the trusts, and to the detriment of patient care."
Former Health Minister and Labour MP for Exeter Mr Bradshaw said: "The minister agreed to write to all the trusts involved asking them to respect the national talks and abide by a national agreement. That must, in effect, mean the South West pay cartel is dead."
But the consortium has said it will continue its review. NHS bosses point out the service is under pressure from the biggest efficiency drive in its entire history.
Chairman Chris Bown, said: "Existing legislation permits NHS trusts freedoms in how pay, terms and conditions are arranged at a local level.
"The South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium was established to explore ways in which these existing freedoms may be used to support sustainability in services and employment in the face of unprecedented challenges.
"This remains the case."