The independent London newspaper

It is essential the pay cap issue is revisited

06 July, 2017

• AROUND five million people work to deliver Britain’s public services. From firefighters to nurses to school teachers, they are the people who keep our society functioning on a daily basis.

The recent tragedies in London and Manchester have reinforced the fact that our public sector workers undertake sacrifices that most of us are thankfully never forced to contemplate.

However since 2010 the demand to address public sector pay has fallen on deaf ears. Thousands have attended protests in support of scrapping the cap, but the dogmatic pursuit of austerity has formed a vice-like hold on Westminster policy-making.

If the one per cent pay cap lasts the full decade, public sector workers will have suffered a real terms cut of over £2,000 by 2020. When accounting for inflation, this amounts to a seven per cent real terms cut.

This is immoral and unjustifiable at a time when we see the government shelling out £1.5billion to the Democratic Unionist Party simply to cling on to power.

For those affected, the pay cap has prompted a huge fall in living standards, as wages have become dwarfed by the cost of living.

With essential costs such as childcare now over £1,500 per year higher than they were in 2010, households of public sector workers have faced an impossible squeeze. Many have been forced to borrow money, sought precarious agency work, or new employment outside of the sector.

Others have been forced into far more drastic measures, with some nurses becoming dependent on emergency food supplies from foodbanks.

To have one nurse relying on a foodbank would be bad enough, but to have the Royal College of Nursing reporting that “growing numbers of nursing staff are taking on additional jobs and accruing personal debt” points to a failure of systemic proportions.

The Queen’s Speech was the latest setback in the pursuit of a public sector pay rise, with a Labour amendment to scrap the pay cap defeated in a parliamentary vote. This follows a general election campaign in which Labour repeatedly argued that the pay cap is pushing our public services into crisis.

Having a demoralised workforce takes us further away from ensuring the sustainability of our public services.

The impact on the public purse will be far less dramatic if we were to offer fair pay now rather than allow personal debts to grow, or to allow an increase on agency staff to take hold.

It is essential that this issue is revisited when the chancellor gives his annual budget, and with the fiscal impacts of Brexit looming, it is imperative that the issue is settled sooner rather than later.

Labour, Hampstead & Kilburn


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