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Publication - FOI/EIR release

Public Sector Pay Cap: FOI release

Published: 13 Dec 2017

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
13 Dec 2017
Public Sector Pay Cap: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/17/02678
Date received: 31 October 2017
Date responded: 28 November 2017

Information requested

You asked for ministerial and civil servant correspondence on the in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18; for if it was ever proposed to scrap the cap in any year from its introduction in 2008/9 and why this was ruled out; for the any costings of savings made by introducing and maintaining the public sector pay cap and for if it was ever considered to give different sections of the public sector a different pay deal and correspondence on that.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. The following document has been attached to this response in Annex B:

Priorities of Government (30-10-2015) – Comparison with UK Government Public Sector Pay Policy (extract from document)

For your information, the pay cap to which you refer has only been set at 1% since 2013-14. This applies directly to the Scottish Government, Executive Agencies and other public bodies, with a full list of who is covered available within our web pages:Public Sector Pay

Other parts of the public sector are not directly covered by Scottish Ministers' public sector pay policy but their pay awards are generally in line with this policy. You will also wish to be aware that Teachers and Local Government staff received basic pay awards of 1.5% in 2015-16.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are only able to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation) of FOISA applies to that information.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) also applies to some of the information requested. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test:

An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government's public sector pay policy for staff pay remits.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of an open and transparent government and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly constructed implementation of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on public sector pay policy will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) also applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on pay policy will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing.

This exemption is also subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy position on public sector pay, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy and decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG