'A clap on the saucepan and then a slap in the face': One per cent pay offer for NHS staff attacked by Wakefield Labour group

Labour councillors in Wakefield have savaged the government's offer of a one per cent pay increase to NHS staff.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 11:36 am
The government's pay offer for NHS staff has been widely criticised, though ministers say it's all they can afford.

Ministers have been strongly criticised for the gesture, which one former nurse described as a "slap in the face", following the Covid pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that a one per cent rise was "what we think is affordable", citing the strain on public finances.

But during a debate about the pay offer at a Wakefield Council meeting on Wednesday, Labour members said the government had wasted millions on a faulty test and trace system and suggested the Prime Minister's clapping for the NHS last summer had been an empty gesture.

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The country clapped for carers every Thursday night last spring.

The council voted in favour of a motion to write to the Chancellor criticising the offer.

Councillor Betty Rhodes, a retired nurse and now chair of Wakefield's health scrutiny committee, said the one per cent pay offer "saddens me tremendously."

She told the meeting: "I worked in the health service for 20 years. I loved every minute of it. The wages weren't great, but we were there because we cared.

"These nurses, everyone involved in public service and in the health service are there because they want to be.

Councillor Betty Rhodes is chair of Wakefield's health scrutiny committee.

"They’ve been in situations over last year that no-one could have envisaged.

"But then what do we get? A clap and then a slap to everyone in our NHS.

"It's time we recognised the value of the service they provide.

"We can't support a situation where a clap on the saucepan means a slap in the face."

Coun Rhodes said that some healthcare workers in Wakefield had even helped dig graves at local crematoria during the nadir of the pandemic, such was their commitment to public service.

And she said that the offer would make it even harder to recruit NHS staff at a time of record numbers of vacancies.

On Wednesday night, the Scottish government confirmed it was planning offer nurses a hike of least four per cent, with those on the lowest wages in line for a 5.4 per cent rise.

Fellow Labour councillor George Ayre, who put the motion forward, called for council workers and school staff to receive better pay increases too.

He said: "I wanted to take a minute to give thanks to those who kept this country going when it was brought to its knees last year.

"The offer's not enough for the NHS staff who've worked hundreds of hours unpaid overtime, risked their lives on wards, seen their colleagues die and worked in environments that most of us can't begin to imagine.

"Giving them a pay rise that's substantially above inflation is the right thing to do."

The opposition Conservative group, none of whom spoke during the debate, abstained from voting, though it's leader was prohibited from contributing after declaring an interest.

The council's sole Liberal Democrat member voted with Labour on the motion.

Local Democracy Reporting Service