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UK Plans Cutback On Public Sector Salary Increases

The British government plans to freeze the salaries of top bureaucrats and offer only minimal increases to other senior workers in an effort to control the country's spiraling deficit, a treasury official said Monday.

Another government official said the plan would effect about 750,000 public sector workers, including doctors, judges and senior bureaucrats. The latter _ about 40,000 people _ would see their salaries frozen at their current level, while the rest would see tiny increases of between 0 and 1 percent _ a fraction of the annual raises typically awarded by the government.

The official said nurses, police, and firefighters would not be affected, while the military would be exempt altogether. He spoke on condition of anonymity as the full details of the plan have yet to be made public.

Liam Byrne, the chief secretary to Britain's Treasury, said the move was necessary in order to put Britain's recession-hit finances in order.

"Britain's public servants are invaluable. But if we want to halve the deficit over four years and protect front line services, we have to make tough but realistic decisions on pay," Byrne said in a statement.

Britain is struggling to control a record-high national debt topping 1 trillion pounds ($1.6 trillion) and the country's three main political parties agree that painful cuts to government spending must be made.

The government official said he could not immediately provide an estimate of how much the government hoped to save through the plan.

Top bureaucrats make about 70,000 pounds ($110,000) a year, according to recent government statistics. But the First Division Association, a union which represents some 18,000 senior civil servants, said freezing the salaries of the government's highest earners would be a bad idea.

"These are relatively modest salaries for the scale of the jobs that people undertake," Jonathan Baume, the association's general secretary, told BBC television. "I recognize that it's a lot more than most people in the economy earn, but these are very demanding, very challenging jobs. And to hold their pay completely _ it's no way to reward or motivate or encourage people."

The British Medical Association also expressed disappointment at the news.

"This is not the time to demoralize doctors," it said in a statement.