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Prison Service Pay Review Body Recommendations 2020-21.

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 10 December 2020

I am today making a further and final announcement on the Government’s response to this year’s recommendations from the Prison Service Pay Review Body.

The Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) reported to Government with its 2020-21 pay award recommendations earlier this summer, and on 21 July, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice was pleased to announce the Government’s acceptance of six out of the seven recommendations. This has already delivered an above inflation pay rise of at least 2.5% for all prison staff, with cumulative awards of up to 7.5% where progression pay is taken into account.

The PSPRB report also included a recommendation (“recommendation 3”) to make a further overall increase of £3,000 for “Band 3” prison staff on modernised terms and conditions, intended to have effect from September 2020. For staff at this grade, this would represent a rise of between 14% and 21%. This group represents around one third of the prison service workforce. This recommendation presents clear affordability challenges due to its exceptional cost and is also out of step with other public sector workforces. The Government therefore committed to considering the recommendation in more detail.

Since the initial announcement, the Ministry of Justice, together with HM Treasury, has considered further the exceptional costs associated with implementing this recommendation, the impact on the overall pay structure, and the changing labour market conditions due to the exceptional economic impacts of the covid-19 pandemic.

Changes in the labour market as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and the unpredictable changing state of the economy means that the assumptions made by the PSPRB upon which it based its recommendations have now changed.

The Department has also considered if any associated workforce reforms could be delivered alongside the recommendation which would create efficiencies and savings, and therefore deliver value for money by offsetting some of the cost of the recommendation. This was undertaken with a view to possible discussions with recognised trade unions, should an option for affordable delivery of the recommendation, which could offer value for money for taxpayers, be identified. The conclusion is that sufficient savings required to offer value for money could not be achieved, meaning the recommendation remains unaffordable.

It has therefore been decided not to accept “recommendation 3”. Nonetheless, this is the third year in a row that prison staff have benefited from an award of at least 2%—which delivers an above inflation increase.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to the PSPRB for its independent expertise, insight and rigour through which it has developed this year’s report. While the Government have not accepted the entirety of the PSPRB recommendations for 20-21, the Department remains committed to working with the review body and we will also continue to work closely with recognised trade unions.

The Chancellor has outlined that in the interest of fairness, pay rises in the public sector will be restrained and targeted for the coming year (2021-22), while also ensuring an uplift for lower earning staff who need it most. I will be shortly writing to the chair of the PSPRB to seek its independent advice on prison pay for 2021-22, in line with the Chancellor’s statement.

I am also, above all, immensely grateful for the hardworking public servants who are critical to the delivery of safe and secure running of our prisons. While the wider circumstances are unpredictable, I remain committed to supporting staff in our prison service, who work hard to help those who are the most vulnerable in our society while keeping the public safe.