Should there be better priorities with public spending?
We stood and clapped, week after week, displaying in the most visible way we could our gratitude and deep appreciation to the nurses and all the health service staff who worked tirelessly throughout the darkest days of the pandemic. The Prime Minister, never one to miss a good photo or telly opportunity, stood with his fiancée on the steps of Number 10 applauding enthusiastically, looking like the most grateful of all, especially after his own brush with the deadly Covid-19. And then, when the Budget came, when the Government had the chance to show, in real terms, how truly grateful we all are, they came up with a proposed 1% pay increase for NHS workers.
Amidst anger and fierce criticism from health unions and from NHS Providers, the body that represents employers in the health service, Health Secretary Matt Hancock bleated that the 1% was “what we think is affordable.” He added that health workers had been exempted from the wider freeze on public sector pay to reward their “incredible” work. As lockdown restrictions slowly ease and the economy hesitantly reawakens, the Government is finally starting to reveal its post-Brexit cards and to indicate in which directions its priorities lay. Membership of the EU is gone, but it also appears that Europe itself is losing importance to the UK, more quickly and more significantly than anticipated. Ministers with trade and economic responsibilities are casting their eyes further afield for potential partners, looking both east and west.
At the same time, the Government has announced it will spend literally billions on strengthening – almost doubling – our nuclear defences, just in case some far off nation turns nasty one day. But with entire industries in the UK on the verge of total collapse – the hospitality and tourism sector for one – many already believe those post-Brexit government priorities are completely wrong.
When a company like Thomas Cook, a world leading travel brand for nearly 180 years, collapses, putting 9,000 staff out of work, and thousands of pubs and restaurants shut down for good, it seems clear that the survivors in the sector need more help while there is still time. Other industries teeter on the brink too. And then there are those “incredible” nurses. So, all-in-all, do we really need all those bright new nuclear warheads, or even the ones we already have?
What our surveys show
Post-Brexit, this Government is setting out on a new economic path, but our survey indicates that the public believes that in regard to our nurses it is moving in the wrong direction. The vast majority of those surveyed, 71%, think the 1% pay rise is not enough, especially as doubling it to 2% would cost the Government £200 million, which, interestingly, is the same as the cost of a single day of lockdown. Only 22% said “No” the nurses should not get a bigger pay rise and 7% said “Don’t know”.
An almost equally large majority, 66%, felt that the Government should be doing more to support the hospitality and tourism industry during lockdown, with 27% deciding that they’re already doing enough. Again, 7% said they “Don’t know”.
And as we rebuild the economy, the public has not forgotten the climate crisis declared by the Government last year, and they want us to “build back green”. Another substantial majority, 69%, believe more should be done to support “greening” the economy and to tackle carbon emissions. 22% were against the idea and 9% answered “Don’t know”.