RESPONDING to Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget speech last Wednesday, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka commented: ‘Rishi Sunak has today failed to vaccinate the economy from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘His refusal to lift the pay cap on civil servants and other public sector workers, who have kept the country going during the pandemic, is a disgrace and economically illiterate.
‘To aid any recovery you must raise living standards and protect the most vulnerable.
‘Whilst the extension of the Universal Credit uplift is welcome, the social security system is not fit for purpose and must be fundamentally altered to take care of people who have been left behind.
‘To reduce inequality, stimulate growth and fund first class public services, we need a progressive taxation regime which ensures big business pays their fair share. It is clear the government will not listen to public sector workers on pay, and therefore a united trade union movement must be prepared to take action together in order for our members to see pay justice.’
Workers in critical industries such as social care, aviation, cash and transit were also crying out for the specific support and investment that they desperately need.
The GMB, Britain’s general union with more than 600,000 members, criticised the Budget for ignoring key worker wages, ‘poverty’ sick pay, and ignoring critical industries desperate for support.
Warren Kenny, GMB acting General Secretary, said: ‘Warm words don’t pay the bills. The Chancellor might get some likes on Instagram, but he won’t be getting any love from public service workers who will feel like this Budget is a kick in the teeth after everything they’ve done for the country throughout this pandemic.
‘Not a penny extra will go to the pockets of our key workers. It’s a national scandal. The lack of action on the super spreader policy of poverty Statutory Sick Pay rates is simply an abrogation of duty.
‘You can’t talk about helping the poorest and leave this unchanged. Those who can’t afford to self-isolate and pay the bills won’t do so, they will feel they have no choice but to risk going to work rather than get into debt.
‘We keep being told we’re not out of the woods yet – I agree – so it’s shocking that this Budget did nothing to address this. Not a penny extra will go to the pockets of our key workers.
‘It’s a national scandal. The lack of action on the super spreader policy of poverty Statutory Sick Pay rates is simply an abrogation of duty.’
Kenny added: ‘Once again, workers in critical industries such as social care, aviation, cash and transit were crying out for the specific support and investment that they desperately need.
‘Once again, all this government could offer was platitudes and a failure of leadership.’
- The University and College Union (UCU) on Wednesday described the Chancellor’s Budget statement as a missed opportunity, and called for more support for education staff as well as better mental health funding in the sector.
The union said the sector needs huge investment, particularly in staff, as education would be fundamental to them post Covid recovery. The union also said that, with health staff currently working on Covid wards saddled with huge debts, now was the time to acknowledge the current higher education funding model is not fit for purpose, abolish university tuition fees and fund education properly.
UCU called for increased funding for mental health services in post-16 education as well as proper, long term investment in lifelong learning and adult and community education to ensure that all young people and adults can access the learning they need.
The union added that increased funding for apprenticeships should be used to support front line delivery and raised concerns over unintended consequences it may cause to youth employment.
UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: ‘Today’s statement rightly recognises the importance of education and skills to our recovery from the pandemic. However this Budget is a missed opportunity to invest in rebuilding the education sector to meet the country’s skill needs after years of funding cuts, jobs losses and pay cuts.
‘We need investment now in the education workforce to ensure the sector can recruit and retain the staff it needs to deliver on the government’s skills ambitions.
‘Student and staff mental health has been a serious issue in education for many years, but the pandemic has compounded the issue and more funding aimed at mental health services across post-16 education is urgently needed to address this crisis.
‘Now is the time for the government to step up, fund the system properly, abolish fees and ensure that education is available and accessible to all. If the government is serious about ensuring equality of opportunity, it must ensure stable funding for the sector so institutions impacted by the pandemic do not rush to make damaging cuts to courses and jobs which would undermine future capacity.
‘We also need massively increased investment in adult and community learning, accompanied by a coordinated strategy to ensure that all adults – whether in workplaces or prison cells, care homes or colleges – can access the learning that is right for them.
‘Increased funding and flexibility for apprenticeships is welcome but it removes the extra £500 incentive to employ younger people. Funding for apprenticeships should also be prioritised towards frontline delivery if we are to ensure they are an attractive option for young people.
‘Education staff have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to support their students and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances – decent pay and secure employment is the least they deserve.
‘We need more investment in public services and fair pay for staff to ensure that we have the skills to get the country moving again. If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that public services and key workers are the people who hold our country together. They must not pay for this government’s mistakes.’
- Responding to the Budget statement, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘This Budget is intended to show the path to recovery – but nursing staff won’t see one here.
‘That there was no substantive mention of health and care services is incredible in the middle of a pandemic.
‘Recovery of nursing staff feels a long way down the government’s list of priorities. They need rest and recuperation, and for ministers to fund ongoing access to confidential counselling, bereavement and psychological trauma support. “Long-Covid” must be recognised as an occupational disease, with more specialist clinics to meet demand.
‘The government must get staffing levels back to pre-Covid levels as a minimum, particularly in areas like intensive care where ratios were diluted to unsafe levels. The fact the Chancellor has not set aside money in this Budget for a significant pay rise for nursing staff is a worrying sign of his intention to give a very low pay award this summer.
‘Nursing staff are worse off than they were a decade ago. If that pay rise is low, it won’t be enough to stave off a potential exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff at the end of the pandemic – and NHS services will find safe patient care even harder to deliver.’
- Commenting on the Chancellor’s Budget speech, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘It is short-sighted and disappointing that the government continues to ignore the funding pressures the education sector faces.
‘The government has said schools are a “national priority”, yet this Budget has provided schools with no new resources to manage coronavirus. Once again this government has failed to pay attention to the educational professionals who see first-hand, every day, the detrimental impact under-funding of our education system has on the children and young people they teach or care for.
‘NEU research shows school spending power is over £2bn less now than it was in 2015-16 and the education sector has specific funding needs to pay for the additional costs of Covid-19.
‘Additional supply costs amounted to £290m last term alone, and the government is offering very little support for this. Schools are losing £290m in lettings income per year, and the government is offering no help with this.
‘Maintained Nursery Schools are struggling to survive year on year without a long term funding settlement. The pandemic is stretching already overstretched budgets further.
‘If the government is serious about growing the economy and building a stronger society, it must prioritise education funding and provide the resources to support an education recovery plan as outlined by the NEU.
‘A key proposal in the NEU’s Education Recovery Plan is to employ supply teachers and qualified teachers who have left the profession to support individualised and small group tuition when pupils and students return. It will be better and more effective to do this than go through private tutoring agencies, where much of the Catch-Up Premium is likely to be wasted in administration costs and profit for agencies.
‘The Catch-Up Premium is far too small to make an impact as it only amounts to a few hours of one-to-one tuition.
‘The past year has shone a light on the shocking reality of poverty in the UK. Even before the pandemic, 4.2 million children – the equivalent of 9 pupils in every class of 30 – were trapped in poverty. Recent research predicts the number of children growing up in poverty is rapidly approaching five million.
‘The government must act urgently to establish and invest in a cohesive strategy to eradicate child poverty from the UK to ensure that no child is left behind. The extension of Universal Credit top up credit of £20 per week for the next 6 months is a welcome move towards tackling systemic disadvantage and is something that should be made permanent.
‘The extension of the furlough scheme is obviously welcome, but the Chancellor continues to ignore obvious defects in the scheme; in particular its voluntary nature which means that groups of workers such as school supply staff are routinely excluded from it.’
Doctors’ union the BMA said that the Chancellor had imposed ‘An unfair tax on doctors,’ and that its survey shows many now plan to leave the NHS before their expected retirement.
Responding to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget announcement of the freezing of the lifetime allowance for pensions, the BMA says it’s a tax which will disproportionally affect doctors and, as a result, many now plan to leave the NHS or reduce their hours.
The Chair of the BMA pensions committee, Dr Vishal Sharma says: ‘Ahead of the Budget, we surveyed our members to gain their views on the impact of a freeze of this kind.
‘Over eight thousand doctors took part in the survey. A staggering 72% of responders to the question: “If the level of the lifetime allowance is frozen in this year’s Budget, what impact if any will this make on your plans around retirement?” – said they were more likely to retire early.
‘Freezing the pension lifetime allowance is a bad decision and is creating the perfect storm – forcing an exhausted workforce, many of whom are already planning to work fewer hours – to make some very tough decisions such as working less hours or leaving the NHS long before they would naturally retire.
‘If they don’t, they will face huge pension taxation bills because the NHS pension scheme is not flexible enough to allow doctors to vary and manage their contributions. They simply cannot keep working and face huge pension tax bills as a result.’
Doctors were also asked: ‘If the level of the lifetime allowance is frozen in this year’s Budget, what impact if any will this make on any plans you might have around changing your working patterns?’ 61% said they’d be more likely to work fewer hours or work part time.’
Dr Sharma continued: ‘The potentially disastrous impact of this on the NHS and patient care is unthinkable, especially at the current time when the impact of Covid-19 and the backlog of patient care is so acutely felt.
‘Today’s move by the Chancellor is nothing short of a punitive tax on our hardworking doctors, and it is simply unacceptable.
‘The BMA has repeatedly called on the government to find a way of mitigating against large pension taxation bills for doctors to avoid them having to leave the NHS and deprive our health services of thousands of hours of skilled care.
‘Only last week the government announced a solution to this problem for judges – the BMA is calling for them to do the same for doctors, with almost half of doctors saying they would retire later and work more hours if this was introduced.’