Tory minister left red-faced after his false claim about the cost of public sector pay rises is exposed

“If you want to be honest with people this morning, your numbers are not completely accurate are they?”


A Tory minister was left embarrassed after his claim, that granting public sector pay rises would make UK households £1,000 worse off, which has also been repeated by the Prime Minister and other senior Tories, was proven to be inaccurate.

Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden clashed with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg over the figure, as the government continues to resist demands from hard-pressed public sector workers for sufficient pay rises during a cost of living crisis and soaring inflation.

Tory ministers have claimed that giving public sector workers the pay rise they want would cost £28 billion — or £1,000 for every UK household.

How exactly did the government arrive at such a figure?

It told the BBC that it looked at the total cost of public sector salaries for 2021 to 2022, which came to £233 billion.

To then account for public sector pay deals already in place it increased the figure by 5%, taking the total figure to £245 billion, before increased it by a further 11% – to match the inflation figure for October 2022 – which seems puts the cost of a potential pay hike to £27 billion.

An additional £1 billion is added on from “assumptions on pay drift and workforce growth”.

The £28 billion is then divided by the 28 million households in the UK, giving the £1,000 per household figure.

Kuenssberg told Dowden on Sunday: “We’ve had a look at your numbers as you’d expect and we’ve also asked the Treasury how they worked it out.

“Your figures have used the inflation figure of 11%, which is just for 1 month (October), the OBR projects that inflation next year will be far less than that, not to speak of it when you’re normally working out pay negotiations, you take an average of inflation, not just one month which is what you have done. So it’s not £28 billion is it?”

Dowden replied: “The request from the striking unions across the board is generally about CPI, the CPI level of inflation is currently between 10 and 11% and actually if you look at the case of nurses they want RPI plus 5% actually that gives you 19% so you could actually argue we’re underestimating the number.”

The BBC presenter replied: “What you think it could be might be more than that? If that’s the case then why have the independent number crunchers the Institute for Fiscal Studies come up with a figure of £14bn as being the cost of doing this.”

Dowden continued to insist that the government’s numbers were accurate, before Kuenssberg pointed out that the government were using inflation numbers which are inaccurate and out of date, adding that no one expected the current rate of inflation to be maintained at the current rate next year.

She said: “If you want to be honest with people this morning, your numbers are not completely accurate are they?”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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