Tuesday, 3 December 2013

High Cost Area Supplement

Click on the below and forward to the 27th minute to hear our new High Cost Area Supplement being discussed at Parliament recently.

Click here to view video

The Scottish Government was asked what representations it has received regarding a weighting allowance for public sector workers in the Aberdeen travel-to-work area.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (John Swinney): I am aware of the concerns of public and private sector workers in the Aberdeen area.

This Government has a range of policies to support those who are finding times difficult financially. Our pay policy focuses resources on the lower paid by promoting the Scottish living wage alongside distinctive measures to address low pay. The pay policy also provides employers with flexibility to address local issues though pay where necessary. This Government’s policy of no compulsory redundancies provides support and reassurance to public sector workers. We are also delivering on our commitment to the social wage.

Maureen Watt: Given the immense pressure on the recruitment and retention of public sector employees, such as teacher and nurses, in the Aberdeen travel-to-work area, does the cabinet secretary think that there should be an allowance similar to the London weighting allowance for such workers?

John Swinney: I recognise the circumstances of public and private sector workers who live and work in the Aberdeen area and in my original answer I outlined a number of measures that the Government is taking to address the issue.

Although we have no current plans to introduce an Aberdeen weighting allowance along the lines that Maureen Watt suggests, some flexibilities exist in our pay policy and in pay arrangements for other public sector staff to address recruitment and labour market issues, whether by grade or locality. We will of course continue to monitor the situation.

Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab): Does the cabinet secretary recognise that, in the national health service in particular, changes that were made some nine years ago to replace London weighting with high-cost supplements allow such a measure to be applied to other parts of the United Kingdom? It is open to the Scottish Government to use that model to recognise the exceptional costs that apply to NHS staff in and around Aberdeen and to look at funding and introducing such a system for staff in NHS Grampian.

John Swinney: Within our existing pay policy, there are flexibilities that employers can utilise when considering any particular challenges in the recruitment and retention of staff in individual employment spheres. The opportunity is available to NHS Grampian and other public sector bodies to consider those flexibilities, which are already inherent in our pay policy.