10/08/2009

'No Bonuses' For Public Sector Bosses

Senior Northern Ireland civil servants will not receive bonuses this year, The Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has said.

Mr Wilson said he had considered all "relevant factors" - including public debate over public sector pay - and decided to cut the award scheme to top level workers.

"In light of the significant pressures on public finances and the very real difficulties facing the wider economy, I believe it would not be appropriate to include bonus payments in this year's pay award to senior civil servants," he said.

The move will save the taxpayer £1.1m, the Minister claimed.

The top 220 civil servants in NI will nevertheless receive a 3.5% increase in basic salary.

But, senior civil service pay bands will also be frozen at their 2008 levels, with no cost of living increase at the bottom or top ends.

This will cover the 220 most senior civil servants in Northern Ireland in the Assistant Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Permanent Secretary grades.

"At an overall cost increase of 3.5%, the award to senior civil servants is also slightly below recent awards for the rest of the civil service, but nevertheless allows me to reward senior civil servants for the vital work that they do in supporting Ministers in the Executive and in delivering public services," said Mr Wilson.

"It has also allowed me to make inroads into addressing some of the structural problems with the senior civil service pay system by dealing with poor pay progression."

For several years senior civil servants have received a combination of basis (a set wage) and performance related pay (bonuses).

This saw basic wages fall, while bonuses increased. The scheme is used UK wide, however, Northern Ireland will now be the only region not to implement the bonus system.

Mr Wilson acknowledged his decision would be unpopular with civil service chiefs, but said it does not mean their "commitment and dedication" is not valued.

"Rather it reflects the very difficult economic climate we find ourselves in where we must all make sacrifices for the greater good.

"This decision affects only senior civil servants but I intend raising with my Executive colleagues at an early opportunity the subject of bonus payments in the wider public sector," he added.

SDLP Finance Spokesperson Declan O'Loan MLA said the decision of Finance Minister Sammy Wilson not to pay bonuses to top civil servants this year marks a welcome move towards more rational pay structures.

However, he also said that the actual savings in this decision are "negligible" because "effectively the bonuses are being converted into a flat-rate increase".

"In the long run much more action needs to be taken, including salary levels of senior staff across the whole public service," he insisted.

(PR/BMcC)

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