Ministers to turn down MPs' pay rise

LONDON Fri Mar 5, 2010 5:06pm GMT

The Big Ben clock tower of the Houses of Parliament is seen through a gap in a gate in London February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The Big Ben clock tower of the Houses of Parliament is seen through a gap in a gate in London February 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Government ministers and their counterparts will turn down their 2010 salary rise, as the largest public sector union complained many of its members could only look forward to a pay freeze this year.

Downing Street said on Friday the move by Labour ministers to sacrifice a 1.5 percent increase was being taken "to strengthen public confidence in the political system and reduce the cost of politics."

The Conservatives said its shadow ministers would match the government's commitment and if they won the election due by June would cut ministerial salaries by a further 5 percent and freeze them for five years.

Political leaders on both sides will hope the action will diffuse public disquiet over a pay rise for MPs at a time of looming public sector cutbacks.

The 1.5 percent rise, set by an independent salary panel, comes after MPs paid back thousands of pounds in overclaimed expenses and allowances which many had apparently used to top up their salaries.

The increase from April 1 boosts their basic annual salary by just under 1,000 pounds to 65,737 pounds.

Public sector union Unison criticised the award, although it said recommendations made by any pay review body should be honoured.

"It does not seem right that MPs can get a 1.5 percent pay increase ... when low paid workers such as teaching assistants, school dinner ladies, social care workers, road sweepers will get nothing, because their pay is being frozen," said Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis.

The Local Government Association said in January that 1.4 million town hall workers would get no increase in April in order to protect front-line services and reduce the need for job losses.

The government has announced it wants a pay freeze for the best paid staff on the state payroll to help plans to halve the 178 billion pound budget deficit over four years.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the party's Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said they would also forego their rise.

(Reporting by Tim Castle)

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