We have all heard certain phrases so often that we know them almost as well as we know the England batting order for the 1981 Ashes Test at Old Trafford…..okay that may only be me. The phrases I am thinking of in this particular instance are “all in it together”, “it’s not right that someone will earn from public money more than the Prime Minister”, “Legal Aid cannot be immune from cuts” and its natural bedfellow “at £2bn we have one of the most expensive Legal Aid blah blah blah….”
Then I saw the news recently that various workers in the public sector were up in arms about their pay situation. “Too right,” I thought, “those gits in Government have been cutting our pay for far too long. Time for us to rise up and fight!” So I did a little research. And it turns out that those gits in Government have not been cutting all of our pay for far too long. It has only been in the legal sector. Most others have had modest pay rises or pay freezes.
No doubt non-lawyers out there will tut and shake your heads. Of course it is right that the fat cat lawyers have their pay cut. That’s what the Government keep telling us. It is only right they have their share of the pain whilst other, low paid public sector workers have small increases in their pay. Only one problem with that though. It is not only the low paid.
Let me give you one glaring example. The Judges. There are just over 2,100 permanent, salaried Judges in the UK. Their pay ranges between £103,950 and £242,243. They also have a pretty nifty pension. Judicial pay was frozen from 2010 to 2013 and then increased by 1% in 2013. The Review Body on Senior Salaries has just recommended that their pay increases by 1% in 2014. The Review Body points out that the impact of the pay freeze and the limited increases means that the Judiciary have suffered a decline in their income in nominal terms of 7.2% and 18.3% in real terms. The evidence of the Lord Chief Justice to the Review Body is summarised as “the LCJ said that he did not have a systematic approach to measuring judicial attitudes but in his discussions with judges he had identified a combination of factors affecting morale: pay restraint; judicial pension changes; increased workload; a sense of disillusionment and a feeling that the judiciary was not valued by the Government…..He said that many judges feel they have been singled out for harsh treatment.” The Review Body expressed concern about the future quality of the judiciary due to pay restraint. It would appear the Lord Chancellor supports their 1% pay rise.
I know many of you out there are ahead of me already. Legal Aid lawyers dream of just a pay freeze. We would dance in the streets if we were granted a 1% pay increase. You want to know what it is like to be singled out for harsh treatment? Try having your pay frozen for ten years. Try having that pay not frozen but cut. Savagely cut. If the LCJ can go into bat on behalf of the beleaguered judiciary he can join me on the steps of Crown Square on the next day of action. All in it together? To quote that erudite advocate Jim Royle – “my arse”.
So is it just the judges who have survived? Nope. The Senior Civil Service have not done too badly. There have been reductions in numbers of Senior Civil Servants going down by 6.6% from 2011 to 2013 and currently standing at 3,655 in total. The total number of Senior Civil Servants is still greater than the number in 2002. The total cost of their salaries is £388.4 million. Let me remind you there are 4,931 barristers doing crime who received a total of £344 million from public funds according to the infamous ad hoc statistics. There are 31 senior civil servants currently earning more than the £142K basic salary of the Prime Minister. Now guess what? Their pay was frozen from 2010 to 2013. Since then? Pay increases.
We are no more in it all together than the lions and the Christians were all one happy troupe of players in the Roman Coliseum. The Legal Aid Sector has not been immune from cuts. The simple fact is that we have been subjected to more cuts in individual earnings than any comparable professionals who derive their income from public funds. I would love to read the report by a Pay Review Body for Criminal Lawyers. Would love to read the comparators with private practice. In the style of Kevin Keegan, I would love it, love it if I could read about the impact of cuts to recruitment, to morale and to the quality of candidates. However none of that is going to happen as the cuts are little to do with the fiscal position. None of what is proposed has any sense or justification. At the basis of all law comes fairness. That is why we struggle to comprehend the case made by the Government. And why we will overcome it.