Ending national pay rates for public sector workers will drive valuable skills from the South West and leave the region a low pay zone. That is the view of a trade union, which is today (Thursday) launching a campaign to protect the local economy. Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the TUC, says 27.1 per cent are employed in the public sector in the South West and that, in the private sector, workers in Devon and Cornwall are paid up to £3.59 per hour less than the national average. He claims any move to level down public sector pay will have a devastating impact on the region. When the Chancellor talks about regional and localised wage negotiations, what he really means is driving down pay to the lowest levels, said Mr Costley. This will have a devastating impact on the economy of the West Country by embedding a low-pay culture that has already caused so much hardship for hard-working families. In recent years progress has been made to close the pay gap between average pay here and that of the UK average, but we are in danger of going into reverse. The region is dependent upon the public sector and the government is already cutting earnings by reducing pay and increasing pension charges. The latest plan will involve a league table of pay rates across the country, consigning much of the West Country to the bottom divisions of pay. Mr Costley added: This will drive out valuable skills from the region and hit the quality of public services. Already the South West has problems recruiting certain skills in education and health, such as midwives, and this will make matters worse. Comparing public and private earnings is complex because public workers tend to be professionals such as teachers or nurses. Such workers have spent years in higher education and training. Professionals in private jobs having spent the same time developing their skills tend to earn a lot more. The vision for our economy should be one based upon good pay and high performance. We want young people to aspire to develop good skills and help deliver top class public services as well as successful trading companies. A low wage economy will mean young people will do their best to escape.