NICK Clegg has stepped into the row over regionalising pay for public sector workers, saying the changes are ‘not going to happen’.
Chancellor George Osborne and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have raised the possibility of local pay agreements.
Mr Lansley has said that higher rates of pay for public workers in depressed areas mean private firms cannot compete for employees.
But the proposals have drawn fierce criticism from trade unions.
Mr Clegg said: “There is going to be no regional pay system. That is not going to happen. No decisions have been taken.
“All that has been asked is something which happened under the last government – they did it in the Crown Court Service – which is ‘is there, in specific cases, a justification to allow local, not regional, local market-based costs to be reflected in the way people are paid in the public sector?’.
“It is being looked at. Nothing has been decided. I feel very, very strongly as an MP from South Yorkshire with a lot of people in the public services that we are not going to do anything which simply willy-nilly exacerbates a north-south divide.
He said there had been “ludicrous scaremongering” from unions about the idea.
Brian Strutton of the GMB union said: “The Deputy Prime Minister appears to be softening the line on regional pay. This is welcome not least because there is no evidence to support the Chancellor’s original contention that public sector pay somehow crowds out pay in the private sector.”