Government plans for regional pay for public servants are unfair and would be bad for NHS patients and schoolchildren in poorer areas, according to a poll carried out for the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

In the poll, 65 per cent of respondents agreed that the proposals for local or regional pay in the public sector should be scrapped. At the same time, 61 per cent thought such a scheme would be unfair while 26 per cent thought it would be fair.

Drilling deeper, 71 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters who took part in the poll agreed local pay would be unfair and 22 per cent said it would be fair. And 75 per cent of Lib Dem voters wanted the plans to be scrapped. Among Conservative voters polled, 51 per cent thought the idea should be dropped and 33 per cent said it should go ahead.

Slicing the data another way, 6 per cent of respondents said that regional pay would have a positive impact on NHS patients while 65 per cent said it would not and 18 per cent said they didn’t think it would make a great deal of difference. At the same time, 56 per cent said the move would be bad for schoolchildren, 6 per cent said it would be good and 24 per cent didn’t think there would be any impact.

The TUC’s general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Apart from the obvious unfairness of paying a teacher in Gateshead less than one teaching in Gloucester, wildly varying pay rates will make it much harder for schools in poorer areas of the country to attract and retain good quality staff. Similarly if individual hospitals are going to be told that in future they are going to have to set their own rates of pay, the time and complexity of the resulting wage negotiations, and subsequent problems with recruitment … could have a damaging impact on patient care.”

He added: “The government’s regional pay plans will not help create a single new job in the private sector, and can only do harm to already struggling local economies. The most sensible thing ministers could do is drop these ill-thought out plans and concentrate instead on policies that will tackle unemployment and increase the UK’s chances of creating economic growth.”