The Government defends 1% pay offer to NHS workers amid growing anger


The Government defends 1% pay offer to NHS workers amid growing anger

The Government came under fire both from its opponents and some of its own MPs after it proposed a 1% pay increase for NHS workers in England. Unions described the figure as “pitiful”; the Royal College of Nursing called for a 12.5% rise and set up a £35m fund to support industrial action. Boris Johnson insisted the rise was as big as could be afforded and better than the pay freeze imposed on most of the public sector. But he left the door open to a compromise by noting that the deal wouldn’t be finalised until an independent pay review body reported back. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said staff should get at least the 2.1% rise planned before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was attacked for allegedly engaging in “pork barrel politics” in his Budget. Labour complained that of the 45 areas across England collectively awarded £1bn in regeneration cash under the newly announced Towns Fund, 40 were represented by Tory MPs. Sunak’s own constituency of Richmond, in North Yorkshire, was among the areas prioritised for support from a separate £4.8bn “levelling up” fund.

The pandemic offered an opportunity to make the country a fairer place, said The Guardian. But the Government has no interest in doing that. While it was happy to splash out in the Budget on “barely disguised sops for Tory-voting towns”, it has shown no such generosity to nurses. “After a summer when the country clapped for NHS workers, ministers today seem contemptuous of yesterday’s heroes.” The proposed 1% pay rise is both stingy and “short-sighted”, given the urgent need to recruit and retain nurses, agreed The Independent. The lesson of the pandemic is that we need a “permanently higher level of taxation to pay for a permanently higher level of NHS and other public services”.

Sunak is hardly holding back on the taxation front, said The Sunday Telegraph. Last week’s Budget – “the worst since Norman Lamont’s tax hiking debacle of 1993” – is set to push corporation tax up to a “Corbynesque” 25%. The Tories should be trying to cut public spending. If “grand projets and government direction” were the key to growth, “France would have enjoyed a multi-decade economic boom. We do need better broadband and better transport, but the benefits will only be reaped if taxes are kept low and incentives maximised.”