I believe a pay rise for nurses, paramedics, police officers, firemen and women – for all public sector workers in Ipswich and across the country – is fair, affordable, and essential if we wish to protect our public services. I do not believe that the Government’s policy of a 1% pay cap on public sector wages is sustainable, as we are already seeing experienced workers leaving the public sector.
The large number of letters and emails I have received on this issue highlights the strength of public concern. Indeed, an online petition calling on the Government to end the public sector pay cap has been signed by more than 130,000 people.
On Wednesday 27th June the House of Commons debated health and social care as part of the debate on the Queen’s Speech. I believe the Queen’s Speech should have been an opportunity for the Government to show some support for our hard-pressed nurses and other public sector workers. Instead, despite clear arguments from Labour spokespersons and protests from across the House, the Government confirmed that its policy of a maximum 1 % public sector pay increase has not changed.
On 28th June I supported an Opposition amendment in the debate on the Queen’s Speech which called on the Government to end the public sector pay cap. Unfortunately, despite the support of all the opposition parties and clear unease amongst some of the Conservative backbenchers, the Conservative MPs all voted with the Government against it and it was defeated 323 to 309.
I want the Government to end the public sector pay cap. The Chancellor should write formally to the pay review bodies to say that they are now free to do what is right by public servants and give them a fair pay award this year. However, we can only conclude from their actions so far that the Government have no intention of doing so. I am looking forward to a high profile campaign with Labour MPs, Trade Unions, and public sector workers raising public awareness and putting pressure on the Government to change their minds. I very much hope you will join in with such a campaign.
The Government has said the 1% pay cap has ended, yet the Chancellor made no reference to public sector pay in his Autumn Budget and there was no new money announced to give public sector workers the pay rise they deserve, Instead, the Government expects overstretched departments facing further cuts to find the funding themselves.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned that if the pay cap stays in place, the public sector will “struggle to recruit and retain the workers it needs to deliver public services, and the quality of those services will therefore be at risk”. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has also provided research which shows that lifting the pay cap would bring higher tax receipts and lower welfare payments.
I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.