George Osborne

“Give our public sector workers a pay rise!”

The big news this week in the world of British Politics has been over the 1% pay cap on public sector workers. If you’re wondering what the heck is a 1% pay cap, take a seat while this blog post gives you the lowdown…

What is the 1% pay cap on public sector workers?

The cap, first introduced by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in 2013 replaced a two-year pay freeze as part of a wide-ranging austerity package introduced by the coalition government. What this means is many public sector workers since the introduction of the pay cap have not seen a rise in their wages as the cap permits a 1% per cent annual increase in public sector pay. However the wages of those in the private sector has increased ever so slightly in comparison. Take a look at the diagram below…

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

Graph depicts percentage changes between the private and public sector. Source: Source: ONS – Annual % changes in three month average regular pay

 

So why all the fuss now? 

In line with recent tragedies in Manchester, Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and the fire at Grenfell Tower, our emergency services have been praised by politicians and civilians alike. Everyday and especially in dire times, our public servants go above and beyond which is why many politicians have called for their hard efforts to be recognised by lifting the 1% pay cap to ensure all public servants receive a pay rise.

Senior MPs such as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary, Michael Gove are amongst many Conservative cabinet ministers and backbench MPs  who are calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to consider lifting the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. Although Johnson and Gove did not out-rightly suggest the cap should be lifted for all 5.1m public sector workers, they have encouraged Theresa May to listen to an upcoming report by pay review bodies, which most likely will recommend the government lift the cap when it is published later this month. In the  Conservative Party manifesto, they had committed to keeping the cap until 2020.

The Labour Party  have also called for the cap to be lifted as they proposed an amendment to the Queen’s speech calling for an end to the pay cap, however it was rejected by 323 MPs in a vote in the House of Commons as the DUP voted in line with the Conservative Party as part of their informal coalition. In response to Labour’s defeated amendment, the leader of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, commented:

“Tonight, the Conservatives had an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, by ending cuts to our police and fire service and lifting the public sector pay cap.

“Although government ministers said they had learned the lessons of the general election and were listening to voters, it is clear that nothing has changed.

They had the perfect opportunity to walk the walk, but instead they marched through the lobby to show Tory austerity is business as usual.

While the money is there when the Conservatives need it to keep themselves in office, the rest of the country now face more devastating cuts to our emergency and other vital services.

The Conservatives clearly plan to keep working for a privileged few. Only Labour is ready to form a government that will work for the many.”

 

Despite pressures from the two major political parties, No. 10 Downing Street (where Prime Minister Theresa May resides) have confirmed there will be no changes to the pay cap. The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said they are “working through recommendations” from the public sector pay review bodies and would respond to those recommendations “in due course”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that increasing public sector pay in line with the private sector would cost an extra £6.3bn a year. Some might say if Theresa May can find an extra £1.5bn to keep her position as Prime Minister, she could surely offer the same courtesy and allow public sector workers to have some stability through their pay. But hey, it’s not like we don’t have nurses and teachers leaving the profession, seeking employment across the pond and risking the future of our younger generation…

In addition to the 1% annual rise, some NHS staff also get gradual increases in their pay as they progress in their roles.

The public sector employs millions of people both within central government and local government. This includes:

  • NHS workers (domestic staff, porters, administrators, nurses, doctors etc)
  • Teachers and those who work in education
  • Law enforcement and security
  • Social Services
  • Armed Forces
  • Police
  • Fire Service
  • Justice

And many more…

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the pay review bodies should consider a pay rise for public sector workers in line with the rise in average earnings across the economy.

Other things you may have missed…

Along with Brexit negotiations, the UK government has decided to pull out of the London Fisheries Convention which allows foreign countries to fish in British waters. The Convention was signed in 1964, before the UK joined the EU; withdrawal will take two years. Under the convention, vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands are permitted to fish within six and 12 nautical miles off the UK coastline. British vessels will also lose the right to fish in the waters of other nations. Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the withdrawal will let the UK “take back control of our fishing policies”. But Greenpeace UK warned the move alone would not deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry. Looks like the UK really is ‘taking back control’…

 

On the subject of ‘taking back control’…

The government has reportedly dropped its ‘have cake and eat it‘ approach to Brexit, as ongoing negotiations have caused the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) to now accept that Britain must choose between privileged market access and political control in Brexit talks with the European Union. This change of thinking within the government represents a clear departure from the early negotiating position set out by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in January. May suggested that Britain would be able to negotiate a Brexit deal based on full access to the European single market without concessions over immigration and payments to the EU. Civil servants have reportedly since told government officials they face a choice between a deal based on preferential access to the single market but surrendering demands for independent immigration and leaving the ECJ, or a “taking back control” agreement cutting all ties with the EU but with a less favourable trade deal.

 

Pensions minister, Guy Opperman, has been criticised for his suggestion that millions of women under the age of 60 who face cuts to their state pension should take up apprenticeships in order to re-enter employment. His comments were made at a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss the changes to the law which will mean the state pension age will rise from 60 to 66 by 2020, delaying access to pensions for women born in the 1950s. SNP minister, Mhairi Black has campaigned frequently against the change in law and had told MPs if the Conservatives could find £1bn to strike a deal with the DUP, they could afford to give women the pensions they are due. Despite many ministers across the political parties arguing the changes are unfair, Mr Opperman says the government is committed to “life-long learning” and will make no concessions.

 

The German Green party, which had pushed for LGBT rights for decades, finally got their victory after the German parliament voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage by 393 votes to 226 with four abstentions. As it was a free vote, lawmakers were permitted to vote according to their conscience rather than obeying party lines. The vote which permits LGBT people to marry and adopt was called by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition allies the Social Democrats (SDP). However, Merkel voted against the move. Congrats Germany! 🇧🇪🌈

Who says this blog only comments on British Politics eh! 😉

Advertisements

Labour in decline?

Ok, so i haven’t posted in quite a while and recent news coverage of Osborne’s budget and Labour’s response (or shall we say Harman’s support) of the cuts to child tax credit for working families ignited a new post i needed to put out there so here it goes.

HOW CAN HARRIET HARMAN SUPPORT THE TORIES BUDGET, ESPECIALLY THE CUTS TO CHILD TAX CREDIT!? (Apologies for the caps, but i’m sure you can tell that really angered me). Labour, a traditionally left-wing party, are meant to be a party for WORKING PEOPLE. Now, how does supporting a policy that penalises families for having children, support working families? If anything, it will put more and more working families into the poverty line. But let’s also remember, Cameron and Co recently changed the meaning of poverty as recent statistics show the rate of poverty in the UK has increased significantly since the Conservatives were elected back in 2010. If we rewind back to May, just before election day, Cameron said on a special edition of Question Time that his party had no plans to cut child Tax credit. Here’s a little reminder…

Fast-forward a couple of months, and already the Prime Minister (elected by only 24% of the electorate!) has broken that false promise. Many spectators, including Harriet Harman, have said Labour lost the election because they are not trusted by the electorate to protect our economy but what about the lives of working people? Many don’t trust the Tories to protect the services that REALLY matter to ordinary people such as welfare, education and the NHS. Meanwhile, Harriet Harman has succumbed to the palms of the Tories and just accepted their plans to cut child tax credits for millions of families who have more than two children. This leaves me wondering as to why Harman has just accepted defeat?

This is the moment where she should be standing up for those who didn’t vote for a conservative government and oppose the budget announced by Osborne. But instead, she fails to oppose the cuts proposed with many now wondering what Labour stands for. Is Labour a party for working people or is it a party that succumbs to the voice of the minority, abandoning its historic roots? And the inevitable question, is socialism dead? Even the Tories are saying they are in fact the party for working people, so surely there’s nothing more for the Left movement?

There is a question over whether there’s going to be a rebellion within the Labour Party after Harriet Harman’s shocking support of the proposed cuts by the Tories, including those standing for the leadership contest. The whole Labour leadership is what inspired the headline of this post. Personally, i don’t think any of the Labour MPs standing for the leadership are really what Labour needs (apart from one – i’ll discuss this in a bit).

Let’s start with Liz Kendall. She’s too Tory (you’re probably thinking that would be a good thing) but its not. You see, Labour needs a leader that can oppose and advocate the needs of ordinary folk, not a copy cat Cameron. Some have gone as far to say that she’s in the wrong party. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with using the strengths of your opponent to your advantage, but whether that’s enough to convince a great number of Labour supporters, i’m not entirely sure.

Next up, there’s Andy Burnham. Where do i begin? I was put off by him when i saw this so for me, there really isn’t much to say. If it was a Tory, i would react in exactly the same way so bye bye Burnham, you’re not getting my vote.

Then we have Yvette Cooper. Now, this one really got me thinking. Married to Ed Balls, notable MP, quite possibly the underdog within the leadership contest. Personally, i could definitely see her as leader of the Labour Party, particularly if it is modernisation and re-direction to centre-left that is required.

But, Jeremy Corbyn. He entered the leadership contest at the last minute and boy has his campaign taken off! He’s the only candidate that truly has a movement which attempts to redefine the party and take it back to its roots. Not in an attempt to go back to a time where Trade Unions were the life of the Labour Party but to a more modern era of where true working people are at the core of Labour’s values. Where austerity is challenged by a true opposition party and a leader who has the guts and bravery to not succumb to the trickery of the Conservative Party. Whether Labour win or lose in the next general election, Labour needs a leader that will gear it in the right direction, a direction which consists of listening to the people – its supporters and non-supporters alike – as well as mapping out its economic agenda. Most importantly, Labour as a whole need to learn to adapt the tactics of its rival – that is embracing its past achievements, being confident to tell the story of the financial crisis back in 2008 (and how it was the BANKERS AND NOT THE PARTY ITSELF) that caused the crash, but finally not biting more than it can chew. What i mean is that the party needs to be able to identify the key aims it wants to establish whilst also not giving too much away. It seems this is a tactic done all too well by the Tories and in order to win, well it needs to start taking notes.

Many of you who may have studied politics would know all too well that time and time again, the question of whether socialism is dead always arises. What is socialism? A leftist movement? An attempt to overthrow capitalism and return the means of production to community level? Welfarism? All these are issues which we deal with everyday and i don’t think its a matter of ‘socialism is dead’, but more a case of whether ‘elitism has become too powerful for us to control’. I’m going to leave that for you to think about.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about Osborne’s budget and the Labour Leadership contest. Whilst your thinking, here’s a little video of the (quite) recent Labour Leader’s debate in case you missed it like i did. Enjoy!