I must take the time to declare an interest: I am a junior doctor at St George’s hospital in Tooting.
When the Conservative Government began their programme of ideological austerity, they imposed the pay cap to secure our nation’s finances. It quite simply has not worked. We were told that the Government could not increase public sector pay beyond 1% because to do so would harm our financial security, but capping public sector pay has harmed us. It has put stress fractures in the foundations of our society—our public services. After seven years of austerity, this Government have borrowed more than all other Labour Governments in history combined. The Government have not paid off the budget deficit, and they lack any credible economic direction. Instead, they are attempting to drive our economy off the Brexit cliff like a lemming.
A decade on from a global financial crisis and seven years after the Government’s austerity programme began, our nurses, refuse collectors and teaching assistants are still paying the price. The stability of our society—the foundation on which we live our lives—depends on these vital services, from healthcare to our security, our children’s education and our local government. Since 2010, our nurses have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 14%. A hospital porter is £7,000 worse off, and a midwife has been left £18,000 short. These real-terms pay cuts have hit so hard that some of those who choose to stay in the profession are forced to use food banks, take on a second job and rack up personal debt, all because public sector pay rises have consistently failed to keep up with the rising cost of living.
The bravery of our emergency service personnel has been highlighted in recent months, following some truly tragic events, but when the media spotlight goes away they perform the very same duties, at the same risk and with the same courage. The Government absolutely do not value the people who put their lives on the line every single day to save ours.