Lib Dem Treasury Chief exposed over regional pay support

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
A letter released under Freedom of Information has revealed that Lib Dem Treasury Chief Danny Alexander has been promoting pay award plans that would harm his own local constituents.
 
The plans for regional pay are also in direct contradiction to his party leader’s public pronouncements.

Newsnet Scotland has learned that Mr Alexander, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, has twice written to Ministers in the Welsh Parliament promoting the idea of public sector pay awards determined by the local market.

A letter sent to the First Minister of Wales in January of this year, includes statements from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury confirming his support for the controversial scheme: “I am keen to see local, market-facing pay introduced across the UK.” he wrote.
 
And in a subsequent letter to the Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt, he further promoted the policy by writing: “I believe there may be benefits to local areas across the UK of more local, market-facing public sector pay.”
 
Mr Alexander’s endorsement comes despite his party leader, and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg publicly saying: “There is going to be no regional pay system. That is not going to happen. No decisions have been taken.”
 
Highlands & Islands SNP MSP John Finnie condemned the Chief Secretary’s keen support for the policy saying that it would come as a shock to the many public sector workers in the Highlands where Danny Alexander is an MP.
 
Mr Finnie questioned why the Lib Dem MP would officially endorse the policy and added:
 
“Just why on earth is Mr Alexander putting forward the case for regional pay when the policy is meant to be out for review?  Could it be the case that the decision already been made?
 
“This is total hypocrisy from Mr Alexander who should be helping public sector workers in this tough financial climate, not penalising them.
 
“It also highlights how no one can trust a word the Lib Dems say as Nick Clegg was telling people it wasn’t going to happen whilst his former chief of staff was promoting the policy.
 
“Clearly the Lib Dems are becoming more Tory every day – it beggars belief that a Highland MP appears to be championing a policy which could lead to unfair pay cuts for local public sector workers.
 
“Not only would this half-baked policy damage public services, it would also hinder efforts to share growth across all of the UK.
 
“The SNP’s current pay policy supports lower paid workers through the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour.”
 
There was further confusion over Mr Alexander’s claims when Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Kirsty Williams directly contradicted her party colleague.

She said: “We are strongly and firmly opposed to the introduction of regional pay in Wales.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats do not believe that regional pay will stimulate the local economy; in fact the introduction of regional pay would be disastrous for Welsh workers and the Welsh economy.”

“I have been lobbying the UK government to stop the introduction of regional pay and I will continue to put pressure on them so that regional pay is not introduced,”

Last month a group of Lib Dem MPs, including Malcolm Bruce and Charles Kennedy, sent a letter to the Guardian newspaper condemning regional pay deals for public sector workers.

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