Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Axe the pay cap. Properly.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

How would you cope if your salary at work was cut by £4500? Or what about as much as £6000? Consider if 14% was lopped off what you took home each pay day. These are the cuts in wages of the average teacher, police officer and nurse respectively since 2010.
 
Now this money hasn’t just been taken off our essential public sector workers over night, that would precipitate mass protests immediately surely? It’s been more sinister than that. Through a combination of a 2 year pay freeze and the 1% pay rise cap, since 2010 wages have been held down at below the rate of inflation. This means that over time the pay of our public servants has failed to keep pace with rises in energy bills, food bills and housing costs.
 
For those more fortunate that has just meant less money to spend on “nice to haves”. Families having to put off buying a new car, having to go on a less expensive holiday or eating out less. Though for many it has meant the choice between eating or heating or the choice between having a roof over your head and not.
 
In the case of the former you may well think that (if you still buy the line that we are “all in this together”) going without “nice to haves” is a price worth paying to get the nation’s finances in order. To that I would respond, if we haven’t got enough money to pay nurses and teachers, where are we getting the money from to slash corporation tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax? In the case of the latter you’d have to have a heart of stone to think it anything other than a national scandal that in a developed country like ours we have workers in full time employment who can’t afford a place to live, enough to eat or the heating bill to stay warm. This isn’t hyperbole, there are accounts of nurses using food banks. Research shows that the proportion of households in fuel poverty is predicted to rise this year.
 
Well what is the solution? Sadly the solution for many public servants is to leave their jobs. Nurses are leaving to work in supermarkets because they find that they can earn more per hour filling shelves than caring for people. There is a well reported recruitment crisis in the armed forces and teaching which, in the case of teaching has led to the government giving out big cash incentives for people to join the profession. The human cost of this is understaffed hospitals and the beat bobby being a thing of the past. This is no way for any country to run its public services.
 
This week the government believe that they have found their own solution. They’ve decided to lift the pay cap, or so the headlines say. However upon reading the full story it will only be lifted for police and prison officers, the rise will still be below the level of inflation and so is again a real terms cut, and there’s no extra money for police authorities so they’ll have to find it themselves by cutting elsewhere. This might mean the loss of even more officers. This is not good enough.
 
Public service funding should not be based on a popularity contest pitting different services against each other. It’s not just about the front line either. Without the call handlers, payroll clerks, researchers and administrators, the front line of our public services would not be able to operate.
 
It’s time that our government stops taking our public sector workers for granted. Their contempt for public servants has delivered a crisis right across our public sector. The government should step up and put that right.
 
Britain’s public services deserve better. Britain’s public services deserve a pay rise.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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