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The Morality of the Public Sector

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Claire Fox, Matthew Taylor, Anne McElvoy and Shiv Malik.

It's not very often you see the complete breakdown of the constitutional convention known as collective cabinet responsibility. The issue at stake is whether to loosen the reins on austerity by giving a pay rise to public sector workers, from prison officers and nurses to judges and senior NHS managers. Ministerial heavyweights have been falling over themselves to urge the government to reconsider the 1% pay cap the Conservatives had wanted to keep in place until 2020. The fragile general election result has prompted a serious re-think. The debate is not just an economic one; it also concerns the moral value we place on the public sector. Paying public sector workers more than the minimum required to recruit them is surely the best way to retain and motivate gifted and dedicated people in the service of others? Or should their awareness of being in a socially-useful job be compensation and motivation enough? Besides, is the lifting of the pay cap too high a price to pay, when the extra money inevitably has to come from the taxpayer or risks detracting from the services themselves? Is the special value ascribed to the public service ethos justified? Does society need to retain the principle at all costs; a vital necessity for people who hold our lives in their hands; a recognition that we can be motivated by higher values than the mere pursuit of profit? Or - at a time in which the traditional distinctions between the public and private sectors are outdated - is it a self-serving myth? The morality of the public sector - our Moral Maze this week.
Witnesses are Sean O'Grady, Dr Mary Bousted, Dr Jamie Whyte and Chris Graham.

Producer: Dan Tierney.

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43 minutes

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