Public sector pay must be balanced against living within means - May

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street in London, Britain June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - Any decision on lifting a pay cap on public sector workers must be balanced against the need for Britain to live within its means, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

At a rowdy session in parliament, May was questioned repeatedly about restrictions on pay increases for jobs including police, nurses and doctors as the opposition Labour Party pressed an argument that her governing Conservatives do not look after working people.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has defended the country’s strict cap on public sector pay after some senior Conservatives also questioned whether it should be loosened.

May said the government would consider outstanding public sector pay review recommendations, which include teachers and prison officers, “very carefully” and respond to them.

“We will always recognise the need to ensure that we take those decisions against the need to live within our means,” she told parliament.

Hammond and May are under pressure to loosen the seven year-old cap which limits public sector pay increases to 1 percent a year at a time when inflation is about to hit 3 percent, but junior finance minister Liz Truss said the policy was unchanged.

“Our policy on public sector pay has always been designed to strike the right balance between being fair to our public sector workers and fair to those who pay for them. That approach has not changed and the government will continually assess that balance,” she told parliament.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Sarah Mills, editing by Elizabeth Piper