Lib Dems to sabotage local pay plan

A senior Liberal Democrat has sounded the death knell for controversial plans to introduce local wage rates which might have seen East Anglian state workers paid more than 10pc less than now.

Currently almost any type of public sector worker will be paid the same rate no matter where they are based in the UK.

But in his March budget chancellor George Osborne announced an intention to explore the idea of locally negotiated rates, to bring state wages into line with those in the private sector in any given area.

Such a move may have meant state workers in Norfolk and Suffolk taking a pay cut, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggesting could be between 10pc and 15pc.

However, with the Lib Dem annual conference in Brighton beginning on Saturday the party's deputy leader Simon Hughes yesterday said he expected delegates to scupper the regional pay rates plan.

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Party members have tabled a motion to be debated on Tuesday, which if passed would see Lib Dem official policy set as ruling out 'any further expansion in regional or local pay'.

Mr Hughes stopped short of saying that if the motion was passed Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg would definitely block Mr Osborne from pursuing regional pay, but went on to signal that the leadership would act in line with the conference's decision.

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He said: 'Obviously we can't determine coalition government policy, but we can determine what we take to the [negotiating] table and my judgement is that this will be passed as a motion.

'Far be it from me to guarantee these things, but I assume [it will be passed] because of the strength of feeling that has been expressed, not just in Wales and Scotland, but also in the regions of England. Therefore it will influence Nick and Danny [Alexander] in what they do.'

He added: 'Obviously it takes two to make a coalition policy in the present government, so we can't promise we will deliver everything, but if this motion is passed then it will give a very clear steer to Nick and Danny and to Vince [Cable], that it wouldn't be an acceptable policy to us.'

Richard Edwards, regional secretary for the Public and Commercial Services Union in the East, welcomed the Lib Dem politician's comments.

He said: 'If what Simon Hughes is saying comes to fruition at their conference then that would be a good thing. There have certainly been indications that people in the party felt that way.

'The evidence that we've gathered shows that if local pay rates were brought in, it would mean the current public sector pay freeze being maintained for years to come.'

He added: '[Avoiding local pay rates] would be good news for public sector workers and their families, but also for local communities because those workers spend their wages in the local economy which means more jobs and better growth regionally.'

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