Rishi Sunak told ‘claps don’t pay the bills’ after spending review

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the spending review. Picture: UK Government

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the spending review. Picture: UK Government - Credit: Archant

Firefighters and healthcare workers in Herts have reacted badly to the chancellor’s spending review.

Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that public-sector workers, who have been working through the pandemic, will not receive a pay rise if they earn more than £24,000 and those who earn less will get £250.

But NHS workers, such has nurses and doctors, will see a rise and the health budget in England of £6bn, including an extra £3bn to relieve COVID-19 pressures.

For those on the national living wage, including those over 23, a rise by 2.2 per cent to £8.91 an hour has been announced, which will increase the earnings of key workers such as carers and supermarket staff.

Daren Scotchford, brigade secretary at Herts Brigade Union, said: “We’ve spent recent weeks lobbying for urgent funding for frontline resources – but instead the Chancellor is giving us a real-terms pay cut.

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“A ‘pay freeze’ is a misnomer. Pay that doesn’t rise in line with inflation is a real terms pay cut.

“Moreover, we’ve just come out of a decade of austerity and pay restraint, that’s devastated our service where, in real terms, firefighter pay has fallen by more than £4,000, or 13 per cent which means we are poorer today than before the financial crisis.

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“Ministers, including the Chancellor, were more than happy to clap us all early on in the pandemic, but claps don’t pay the bills.

“They’re trying to divide and rule, pitting public and private sector key workers against one another, NHS and non-NHS frontline responders against one another, but we won’t stand for it – we’re all key workers.

“The Chancellor doesn’t directly set firefighter pay and his cruel decision today will not stop our campaign for fairer pay and funding.”

Healthcare workers charity UNISON had a similar reaction with eastern regional secretary Tim Roberts saying: “The Chancellor wants to pause the pay of care, school, council and other public service workers who’ve been on fast forward all year.

“Extra money in pockets gets spent locally. Less than a pound more a week for some won’t save the ailing shops and leisure, arts and hospitality venues across our region. Health staff have already shown they and the NHS more than deserve a rise this year. This can’t wait on a lengthy pay review body process. The government should deliver the goods now.

“Reviving the economy will take a gargantuan effort from everyone. That means investing in the entire economy, not seeking to divide and rule between the sectors. Key workers mustn’t be taken for granted and left to carry the COVID can.”

Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce chairman Nick Brown thinks the spending needs reigning in and said: “The Chancellor needs to cut overhead. 11 per cent of GDP, the estimated drop in 2020 that the UK will experience, is some £200 bn, or four times our defence budget.

“Some will no doubt be added to our National Debt, but this is still a big number. I would remind him that in New Zealand the Public sector took a 25 per cent pay cut, and so far he has done nothing to support those entrepreneurs that run businesses and pay themselves by dividends, rather than PAYE.

“With unemployment estimated to nearly double from 3.85 per cent to 7.5 per cent that is an extra 1.2m people without a job. That is a lot of voters.

“He should ask himself who it is that will create the jobs coming out the other side of this. It cannot be the public sector, the tax revenues will not be there to pay for it.

“His first priorities should be to cut overhead and help people who generate cash, jobs and revenue for the Government. It’s a difficult job, we all wish him well, act now, create some hope for the future”

Leader of Hertfordshire County Council Cllr David Williams, a Conservative, and chairman of the County Councils Network, welcomed the news and the £300m for adults and children’s social care.

“The CCN has long called for an income guarantee to compensate for losses in council tax and business rates income, and we strongly welcome today’s establishment of a compensation scheme at the 75 per cent rate we specifically called for.

“Today’s announcement will ease the burden on councils next year, especially in relation to the continuing costs of the Coronavirus. But there is an onus on local authorities raising more from council tax to fund their social care costs, and with councils facing an underlying funding shortfall before the pandemic, they still face some difficult decisions next year on what services to reduce.”

Both the FBU and UNISON trade unions are affiliated with the Labour party.

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