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Public sector pay freeze is ‘kick in the teeth’, says Camden Unison leader

Government also criticised for leaving families facing 'poverty and uncertainty'

26 November, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Camden Unison branch secretary Liz Wheatley [picture taken before Covid-19 pandemic]

A UNION leader has branded a public sector pay freeze as a “kick in the teeth” for workers after months of helping fight Covid-19.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday) that wages increases would be “paused”, apart from healthcare workers and those earning less than £24,000 a year. He said that while public sector wages have on average gone up by 4 per cent, wages in the private sector have fallen by 1 per cent.

Liz Wheatley, branch secretary of Camden Unison, said: “I know they are calling it a pay pause but it’s a pay freeze.

“That is obviously ignoring care workers and the role that they have played, but also to the vast majority of local government workers who have been part of the response to coronavirus, it’s a kick in the teeth.”

She added: “The spending review is an attack on working-class people as the Tories try to make us pay for their bungling of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have given billions to their friends in contracts for PPE that didn’t work and have the audacity to say that they don’t have the money for working people who have literally kept us alive.

“Sunak says doctors and nurses will get money, without saying how much, but what about the cleaners, porters and paramedics? What about the care workers, teachers and millions of other care workers who have worked during the pandemic?”

Elsewhere in the spending review, Mr Sunak announced that local authorities will be able to raise council tax by a maximum of 5 per cent, with 3 per cent going to social care. He promised a “sustainable improvement” to social care would be unveiled next year. Councils will get a chunk of £3billion funding to “address Covid-19 pressures”, as well as receiving money to help support people who cannot pay council tax or to cover money that has been lost in unpaid rates.

Leader of Camden Council, Georgia Gould, said: “While there is growing government recognition of the huge challenges we face on food poverty, welfare support and rough sleeping, today’s spending review does not gives us the funds to get every person rough-sleeping off the streets this winter, and leaves families facing poverty and uncertainty.

“One of the most impactful things the Chancellor could have done is confirm the £20 per week uplift for everyone on Universal Credit beyond March 2021 – the idea that money could be taken out of the pockets of the lowest income families at this time is deeply concerning.

“Camden has stepped up this year to provide new and crucial services in response to Covid-19 – but this review fails to give councils the reassurance that government will give them the ongoing financial support they need.”

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