A political row over has emerged in Gedling borough over a public sector pay freeze announced by the Government earlier this week.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak shared plans on Wednesday (November 25) to freeze public sector pay next year but cushioned the blow by offering 2.1million of the lowest-paid workers an increase of £250.
About one million NHS workers, including nurses and doctors, will also be exempted from the freeze in recognition of their role on the frontline of the pandemic.
Following the announcement, Gedling Borough Council leaders John Clarke and Michael Payne wrote to local MP Tom Randall and called for him to oppose the plan and show support for the key workers whose efforts he had praised during a speech in the House of Commons back in the summer.
The councillors wrote: “Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on families across the country, the loss of life has been truly heart-breaking.
“Our carers, refuse collectors, armed forces, firefighters, police officers, teachers, social workers, council workers and all other public sector key workers stepped up to protect us, now it’s your turn to stand up for them.
“In late June 2020, you stood up in the House of Commons and described the Coronavirus pandemic as a ‘once in a lifetime event’. You put on record your thanks to key workers who have been working at ‘full capacity’ and stated it is ‘clear to me that hard work is widely appreciated’.
“Now is your opportunity to demonstrate you mean what you say, we’re asking you to join us in publicly calling on the Chancellor to reverse the public sector pay freeze he announce and request you vote against this shameful pay freeze proposed by your government’.
The Gedling MP was quick to respond to the councillors’ letter and defended the government decision.
He wrote: “As the Chancellor explained, Coronavirus has deepened the disparity between public and private sector wages. In the six months to September, private sector wages fell by nearly 1% compared to last year. Over the same period, public sector wages rose by nearly 4%.
“Private sector workers have lost their jobs, been furloughed, lost wages or have had to work reduced hours. The public sector has not.
“Against that background, the Government has taken the difficult decision that a significant, across-the-board increase for all public sector workers cannot be justified, particularly when those in sectors like retail, hospitality and leisure have faced such a difficult time.”
The Tory MP then urged the Labour councillors to back the Chancellor’s spending plan.
He said: “The economic legacy of the 2000s, which caused the need for financial restraint in the early 2010s, demonstrates the necessity for sound management of public finances.
“Because of Coronavirus, the UK is forecast to borrow £394,000,000,000 this year, equivalent to 19% of GDP and the highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history.
“The Government’s spending review protects people’s jobs at a time of economic emergency.
“It delivers stronger public services, honours the Government’s historic, multi-year commitment to the National Health Service and delivers record investment plans for infrastructure. I would urge you to support it.”