Labour MP pressures Osborne on low paid workers

Frank Field has already got the support of David Blunkett and John Mann
Frank Field has already got the support of David Blunkett and John Mann

By Phil Scullion

A senior Labour backbencher is attempting to force George Osborne to deliver on a £250 pay rise promise for up to a million public sector workers.

Frank Field, a former welfare minister, will try to gain a vote on an amendment he has tabled to the finance bill.

The chancellor announced in June 2010 that 1.7 million staff who earn less than £21,000 a year would receive a pay rise.

The Treasury subsequently backtracked, saying it would only apply to workforces under ministerial control and those which have pay review bodies.

This followed complaints from local government employers who have traditionally been free to set their own pay levels.

Mr Field says that this backtracking by the government will result in over a million workers missing out during a time of great hardship.

He said: "’We are all in this together’ has been the constant refrain of the coalition government, yet here is a policy which could not be further away from this aim.

"Yet again it is the lowest paid workers who are suffering. Today MPs have the opportunity to secure the deal George Osborne made with low-paid public sector workers in his first budget. I hope they embrace the opportunity and vote for the amendment."

Mr Osborne announced a two-year pay freeze for all public sector workers earning over £21,000 in his first budget last June. He said the £250 pay rise for those earning below £21,000 would provide a proportionately higher pay rise for those on the very lowest salaries.

The House of Commons library has carried out research estimating that 2.2 million public sector workers are in the below £21,000 bracket. However Mr Field says only 715,000 of those fit the pay review bodies or ministerial control conditions.

The Birkenhead MP says his amendment would cost around £500 million but would also cut benefit bills.

The delivery mechanism he is proposing is for the public sector workers to receive a tax cut worth £250.

Mr Field, who successfully campaigned in 2008 for Gordon Brown to compensate the low paid workers who were hit by the abolition of the 10p tax rate, has already gained support of senior Labour MPs such as former home secretary David Blunkett and John Mann.

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