Opinion: ‘NHS pay offer is deeply insulting’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 4:57 am
Emergency service and NHS staff clap to celebrate 72nd anniversary of the NHS at Peterborough City Hospital. (Archive image)

No one has given more nor borne more burdens over the past twelve months than our hardworking NHS staff. The public showed its appreciation for their efforts via everything from fundraising, to clapping, to drawing rainbows in chalk on driveways.

So many of us literally owe them our lives.

They have seen death on a scale for which no training could have prepared them.

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To be offered a paltry 1% pay rise is deeply insulting. I thought that over the past year we had all learned a lesson: without health, we have nothing else. We don’t have an economy nor a society: thus, without the NHS and the people who work in it, we don’t have a country.

Do we really think that 1% is a suitable reward? I certainly don’t.

As vaccines roll out and the pandemic begins to lift, it would seem that the Conservatives are reverting to type. At least the Chancellor had to subject his budget to scrutiny and debate.

Here in Peterborough, we were not permitted to talk about it. The Conservative administration, helped by the Mayor, voted to stifle debate about Peterborough’s budget. There is no doubt that there are tough choices ahead because of the ravages inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic; however, this should have been an opportunity to gather more ideas, not shut discussion down. For an administration that likes to say that it serves the people of Peterborough this is a distinctly undemocratic move; the people’s representatives have been cut out of the discussion. The budget will be dictated by what the Conservatives want; given how they value nurses, or rather, how they don’t, can they be trusted to understand what is important to save and what should be cut? Or are they going to slash services that they know the public will value, but don’t want to be encumbered by the democratic process?

I am not alone in having misgivings: Cllr. Nick Sandford, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Cllr. Julie Howell, the leader of the Green group, and I have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, asking that the budget meeting be reconvened. At the very least, what the Conservatives want to do should be subject to full scrutiny and debate before it is implemented. The idea that democracy is somehow an impediment is a nonsense: what is democracy for if it cannot stop an administration from ramming through whatever it wants without objection or revision?

There are joint proposals that Labour and the Liberal Democrats tabled: for example, we propose the creation of bonds for transformation projects. We would like to plant more trees to enhance the environment. We would like to build 3,000 sustainable council-owned homes.

We propose to create an investment fund to build up digital businesses in Peterborough. These proposals would not require additional taxes: they are cost neutral. These are just four out of ten ideas that we wanted to discuss, which ranged from improving recycling to the creation of a Wellness Centre and much more. The Conservatives accepted all our proposals, without challenge, because those proposals would bring huge benefits for the city. However, the present

Administration has shut the door on debate: it has made it clear that it does not want to he held to account. Perhaps it is a sign of fear. They have been in power in Peterborough for over two decades, and run out of both inspiration and vigour. We need both to face the challenges ahead.

I believe the public will notice and vote appropriately at the next election.