Fury of public workers as judges could get pay rise 13 times their own
MINISTERS were facing an angry backlash yesterday over plans to hand senior judges a pay rise of almost a third of their salary.
The increases put forward by a Whitehall pay review body would mean 32 per cent extra for High Court judges – a pay rise nearly 13 times the average given to most public sector workers this year.
The major pay increases would come on top of the regular annual pay rise for the judiciary – which is likely to be around 2 to 3 per cent.
The scale of the proposed awards brought an outcry from trade unions and provoked worry among legal observers that justice may be undermined if judges are given special treatment over pay.
The leak to the Daily Mail of the figures put forward by the Senior Salaries Review Body was met with an icy silence from senior judges themselves.
Some are thought to believe their salaries have deliberately been thrown into the political forum and that the judiciary is likely to lose out in the row now raging. If the increases go ahead it will mean the annual pay of a High Court judge will go up by nearly £60,000, from £181,500 to £240,000.
Lesser-ranking circuit judges – a judge of this rank will typically preside at Crown Court criminal trials – would get 22 per cent to take their pay to £165,000. District judges, who will handle County Court civil cases, would get an 8 per cent increase to £117,000.
But over the summer the average public sector weekly pay of £528 has been going up at 2.4 per cent a year, according to official figures. Average private sector pay is slightly lower – £519 a week – but has been rising slightly more quickly, at 2.6 per cent a year.
Judges have been pressing for big pay rises, citing the difficulty of recruiting high-earning lawyers to the bench, cuts to the value of their pensions, and low morale.
A second report from the review body is understood to have recommended that judges get another pay rise, a routine annual increase comparable to that given to other public sector workers.
But Mark Serwotka, of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents low-paid civil servants, said: ‘Most public sector workers, particularly the civil servants I represent will say, how does this compare with how I have been treated?’
He told Radio 4’s Today Programme that union members ‘have had below inflation pay rises and the Government has refused to reflect on the pressure of the jobs that they do in Job Centres and on the borders. There will be a real sense today of double standards’.
David Green, a commentator on legal affairs who is chief of the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘I do not object to paying judges well. I do object to the disparities between judges and other public sector workers when the recommendations of their pay review bodies are not met. If you set up pay review bodies, you should respect their recommendations.’
The Ministry of Justice responded to the leak by saying that it had commissioned the review and ‘will respond in due course’.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said in July that there were 93 High Court judges, 15 short of the full complement of 108. ‘That shortfall largely resulted from the steady erosion of judicial terms and conditions,’ he said.
Legal pressure: Judges say it has been difficult to recruit to the bench
From yesterday’s Mail