Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 17th March 2021

Under the Conservatives, nurses’ pay has fallen 15%. Even before the pandemic, nurses being forced to rely upon foodbanks was a national scandal, but the Government’s decision to again give them a real-terms pay cut is deeply insulting when they’ve just been through hell to beat COVID-19.

The financial cost of the pandemic is huge and it will take a long time for the country to repay it, but the claim the UK cannot afford to even maintain nurses’ pay at current levels needs context. Over the last year, the Government has given away £2bn in crony contracts, £37bn on a test and trace system that simply hasn’t worked, just this week unveiled an totally unnecessary multi-million pound White House-style press room at Downing Street, they even gave Dominic Cummings a 40% pay raise while he was out breaking lockdown restrictions. This isn’t about money, it’s about priorities, and the Government’s priorities aren’t our priorities.

Yes the Government is having to borrow, far more in fact than the last Labour Government ever did, but the cost of borrowing has never been cheaper. When the economy is struggling, investors look to invest in the safest bet there is: the country. In fact, so many investors are looking to lend the Government money that in some cases the are paying negative interest rates, meaning the Government will pay back less than lenders lend them. Why? Because things are so uncertain right now that even knowing they will lose some money is still less risky than the alternatives. The fact is the Government can afford to at the very least maintain nurses’ pay, even if they still won’t pay them what they are worth.

The UK must pay back what it borrows, but we tried austerity after 2008 and all it left us with was a stagnant economy and failing services, while countries which focused on growing their way our of recession shot past us. With a thriving economy, tax generated by businesses and employees will pay down the UK’s debt while we maintain services. There’s no point in returning to a race to the bottom.

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