THE seven-year public sector pay cap is to be scrapped from next year, with ministers given “flexibility” to breach the long-standing limit of one per cent on rises.

The announcement came as Downing Street unveiled an immediate 1.7 per cent hike for prison officers and improvements totalling two per cent in police pay for 2017/18.

However unions made clear in their initial responses that the Government move fell well short of their aspirations.

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And the Police Federation, which had asked for 2.8 per cent uplift to basic pay, said it would leave many officers “angry and deflated”, having this year been “tested to the max”.

Andrea Breeze, chair of Cleveland Police Federation, said with inflation running at 2.9 per cent it was a real terms pay cut.

She said: “The Government are still not listening to officers and the unique role we perform.

“In [the federation’s] recent pay and morale survey 73.7 per cent of respondents from Cleveland Police felt they were worse off financially compared to five years ago.

“Almost 90 per cent of respondents from the force reported that they do not feel that they are paid fairly for the stresses and strains of their job.

“Morale within Cleveland Police is low, this announcement may help this a little, but it is a far cry from what officers deserve and will be unlikely to prevent those who have already decided they want to leave police service.”

Nursing representatives have been among those pushing strongest for the one per cent pay cap to be scrapped and many nurses from the region recently attended a huge rally outside the Houses of Parliament.

Peta Clark, Royal College of Nursing operational manager for the Northern region, said: “We need concrete confirmation and details of when and how the cap on nursing pay will be lifted. “It’s been in place for seven years and is impacting recruitment and retention and on patient safety.

“Our campaign will continue until there is concrete proof that the cap has been lifted.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady branded the increases for police and prison officers “pathetic”.

She said: “Public sector workers have suffered seven long years of real pay cuts and are thousands of pounds worse off.

“If ministers think a derisory rise like this will deal with the staffing crisis in our public services, they are sorely mistaken.”

And the Prison Officers Association said it was seeking industrial action over an offer which it said effectively amounted to a pay cut.

A Government spokesman confirmed the one per cent pay cap was now ending , but said there was “still a need for pay discipline to ensure the affordability of public services”.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said review bodies and departments were being given greater leeway to use pay to address “pinch points” within public sector staffing.

She said: “What we are making sure is that we look at it on a workforce-by-workforce basis because there are very different issues for teachers than for nurses and for police officers.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the TUC conference in Brighton, said the Government was attempting to play “divide and rule” with public sector workers and promised the party would ditch the pay cap across the board.

He said: “A Labour Government will end the public sector pay cap and give all workers the pay rise they deserve and so desperately need. That is our policy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “It is good to see the Government finally recognise that the public sector pay cap is no longer sustainable.

“The cap must now be lifted across the board so all public sector workers are given the pay rise they deserve.”