Election 2024: Public services

Public services Election 2024

Prospect is the second biggest union in the civil service and represents thousands of specialists and professionals across the wider public sector.

They defend, protect, support and enhance our society. Good, strong public services make the UK a better place to live. 

The problem

  • Through austerity and ideology, public services have been left behind in recent years. Many departments have been left struggling to function properly and failing to recruit and retain the specialist skilled staff that they need. 
  • Public sector workers have experienced a real term pay cut of up to 27% since 2010. Many public servants who are experts in their field and do vital jobs have even had to resort to using foodbanks due to low pay. Many civil servants do not have pay progression in their roles. 
  • The Civil Service is experiencing a crisis of recruitment and retention, mainly due to low levels of pay (as identified by the Public Accounts Committee). This is leading to a ‘brain drain’ in many departments.
Years of real-terms pay cuts for public services workers 13
Percentage of real-term pay cuts since 2010 27%
How much more high-skilled private sector workers earn, on average 17%

What we want to see happen

We believe that the next government will only be successful if it tackles the crisis in public services. 

We want the next government to commit to: 

1. Fund public services properly

Only public services that are well resourced can properly carry out their job to defend, protect, support and enhance our society. In recent years, too many Civil Service organisations have experienced a lack of resources leading to a reduction in quality of those services. Any more of this is not sustainable and will cause enduring damage. 

2. Support evidence led policy delivery

Our members working across the civil service and wider public sector deal with some of the greatest challenges we face as a nation both nationally and internationally. STEM and data skills need to be at the heart of policy development, delivery and evaluation and the civil service needs to invest in developing, recruiting and retaining the highly skilled work force it needs for the future. 

3. Establish an independent pay review body for the Civil Service

Too often, Civil Service pay has been used as a political football. While some public sector workers have their pay set by an independent body (such as the NHS, teachers and the military), the vast majority of the Civil Service doesn’t. 

4. Introduce pay progression arrangements

There is no pay progression across most of the Civil Service. This must be introduced to ensure the Civil Service can continue to attract and retain talent and reward knowledge, skills and experience. 

5. Ensure no cuts to redundancy terms

In 2023, plans were on the table to cut redundancy terms in the Civil Service. After campaigning by Prospect and other unions, these plans were shelved for the rest of this Parliament. It is essential that these plans remain confined to the dustbin of history. 

6. Treat the Civil Service as an asset, not a political punchbag

It is the job of the civil service to serve the government of the day and to provide Ministers with impartial and objective advice.  The next government must stop using civil servants as a punchbag and engage with them productively. This will improve morale and go some way to solving the retention crisis. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

As well as the above policies, it is in the best interest of all workers if the government prioritises equality, diversity and inclusion. We would also like the government to commit to:

1. Build-on risk-based exclusion from Parliament for politicians accused of violent or sexual offences 

Workers in Parliament deserve the same protections as employees at every other place of work. We have recently won a change that will see MPs arrested for violent or sexual crimes be subject to a risk-based exclusion from attending the parliamentary estate, in line with the House of Commons Commission’s original proposals on this matter. We now need to build on this including by applying it to politicians visiting civil service workspaces. 

2. End attacks on EDI initiatives in the Civil Service 

Politicians should end the attempt to silence discussion on vital issues such as racial and gender inequalities in the workplace, inclusion, and employment good practice. Equality, diversity and inclusion are wholly consistent with the values of the Civil Service Code. 

*Note: This page reflects current Prospect thinking. Prospect National Conference takes place in early June. Relevant new policy agreed at Conference will be reflected here shortly afterwards.

Further reading