By Dan Drillsma-Milgrom, finance reporter
Local government employers have played down Gordon Brown's support for local and regional pay flexibility.
Jan Parkinson, managing director of Local Government Employers, insisted the comments did not represent a new line on national pay bargaining. 'There is nothing new in what he has said, it is not a big shift in public policy,' she said.
'There has always been some flexibility. We are not the NHS.'
Unison said: 'If you start restricting pay growth rates then you will undo the good work that has been done to bring public sector pay closer to private sector levels.'
Blair successors set public sector battlelines
This week has seen four major speeches on the public sector - two of them by Gordon Brown.
On Tuesday Mr Brown emphasised the role of local government in providing public services in a speech to the National School of Government. He flagged up the benefits of devolving power to neighbourhoods in order to better tailor services to local needs.
Tony Blair also spoke at the conference, highlighting the need to demonstrate the benefits of increased investment in public services, including protection of favourable pensions.
Conservative leader David Cameron used a speech to the National Consumer Council to display a sympathetic attitude to public sector workers.
'Anyone working in the public services could easily have heard a pretty negative message from my party: 'there's too many of you, you're lazy and you're inefficient'. This is far from how I see things,' he said.
Ben Page, director of MORI's Social Research Institute, highlighted the role of public services as a key electoral battleground. 'There is a risk that Labour will squander their inheritance of being seen as the best party on public services, which is how they won the last general election,' he warned.