Govt accused of 'rank double standards' after paying out £30m in high street vouchers for civil servants

29 December 2022, 14:47

Labour has criticised the government for handing out £30m in vouchers
Labour has criticised the government for handing out £30m in vouchers. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The Government has been accused of "rank double standards" after paying out £30 million in high street vouchers for civil servants.

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Data gathered by Labour revealed that 16 Government departments paid out a total of £29.57 million to staff in “reward and recognition” vouchers - a third more than the previous year.

The Foreign Office spent the most, totalling £9.9 million given to staff in vouchers.

The Home Office spent £6.6 million - up from £2.8 million - and the Department of Work and Pensions handed out £5.9 million in vouchers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice spent £4.9 million on shopping and restaurant vouchers.

The Ministry of Defence, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Health refused to provide figures for their voucher programmes.

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Shadow Cabinet Office minister Florence Eshalomi
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Florence Eshalomi. Picture: Alamy

The controversial move came despite previous Chancellor and current PM Rishi Sunak introducing a year-long pay freeze across the majority of the civil service amid the cost of living crisis.

There has also been a growing number of walkouts across the public sector over pay disputes and working conditions.

Mr Sunak has said he is "sad" and "disappointed" about widespread strike action, including by nurses, but he insists that refusing to negotiate is the "right thing" in the long term.

Florence Eshalomi, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “No one would dispute that hard-working civil servants deserve to be recognised for their efforts, especially those who went the extra mile during the pandemic, but once again, what we see in these figures is a Tory Government guilty of rank double standards.

“At the same time that ministers are refusing even to discuss the subject of pay with our nation’s nurses, we now discover they got around their own pay freeze last year by giving out record numbers of non-cash vouchers to Whitehall staff instead.”

A Government spokesman said: "Reward and recognition schemes have a positive impact on staff morale.

"All individual awards follow an established approval process to ensure value for money."