First we gave our nurses a clap and now it’s a cold shoulder

We’ve clapped for these people but the Government doesn’t think they’re worth a pay rise. But there is plenty of money to buy rubbish from firms run by Tory donors and to purchase poor quality services from the same people.

As the Government continues to bludgeon its way through what is still a pandemic crisis, they have made many mistakes along the way. Promises about a world beating track and trace to be delivered by a wonderful private sector turned out to be poorly delivered and over expensive. A world beating app to be delivered by a wonderful private sector but which tuned out to poorly delivered and over expensive (twice!) Dominic Cummings getting his eyes tested after a 200-mile journey to a family home which hadn’t been declared for tax purposes. £billions being spent on PPE from companies run by Tory donors much of which is unusable. I could go on!

But what many people will never forgive the Tories for is the miserly, scraping attitude they are showing towards NHS and care staff. The proposal to give NHS staff just a 1% pay increase and the likelihood of care staff getting no increase at all really shows the Tories in their true colours. They support public services only when they need to. To most of them the public sector is a drag on the real economy. If only we didn’t have to pay taxes we would all be richer and, most importantly, some of us would be a lot richer!

We have run our NHS staff and care staff ragged over the past year. Many have died looking after us and our loved ones. Most are exhausted physically because of long shifts and short breaks. Many will suffer with severe mental health conditions on the lines of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of what they have seen. In both sets of professions, they are used to death and suffering. It is, regrettably, part of the job. The amount of appalling things they have seen in this past year goes beyond that which they are accustomed. To watch people, die without their loved ones alone must be a terrible burden. Having to make decisions about life and death not once a week but frequently on one shift can only cause them severe problems.

It is the public sector and particularly their staff on the ground who have made a success of resolving the problems and leading us towards the light.

The most obvious are the front-line staff of the NHS and care systems. Let’s not forget those who have also made the systems work behind the scenes. The magnificent roll out of the vaccination programme has been achieved by NHS staff at all levels. Systems had to be designed to get people to the delivery point and then through it. When I went for my first jab you would think they had the system in place for years and not weeks.

Where track and trace has been successful it is because council health and community departments have known how to get into communities with people from their own language, faith and culture. These local skills and knowledge have also been instrumental in pushing up vaccination rates in communities who are hard to reach.

The only cost effective and successful part of the whole private sector debacle has been the production of the vaccine itself. Here our world class universities have worked with Astra Zeneca to produce a vaccine on a none profit making basis. This is a great example of what can be done when altruistic and top-level scientists and world class producers get together to combine their skills in a true public/private partnership.

Let’s not forget either the great work being done by volunteers. All the marshalling of the queues was being done by volunteers when I got done. I suspect they would not have volunteered to help Serco but would help their beloved NHS.

If I honestly believed that there was no money available, I would say that provided we all took just 1% we could look nurses and others in the eye and say, “We’re all in it together”. But we know that money is available. It’s available to pay Serco employees £1,000 a day, it’s available to enable Serco to increase its profits and its share price to increase. Its available to pour so-called ‘recovery money’ into shopping areas that happen to be in Tory Constituencies. It’s available to hire Tory donors and to buy rubbish products from Tory donors. It’s not just the Tories. This week the acting Mayor of Liverpool saw her salary doubled although we Lib Dems voted against.

We’re not short of money. We’re short of the will to spend the money that we have available on the right things. Proper staff pay and support must be the rightest of right things imaginable. Spend money of carers and doctors and nurses and the money recycles round our UK economy. Spend it on the private sector and a considerable amount ends up in foreign bank accounts in tax avoidance and tax evasion schemes.

I believe that there is waste in the NHS which needs eradicating and we need to redefine how some NHS money is spent on the wrong priorities. These are considerations for another day. Today’s consideration is about giving real thanks to our front-line heroes. People who have gone above and beyond any reasonable call of duty. Instead of doing that we clap for them but kick them in the teeth by giving them a pay increase which is below the rate of inflation and which will leave them poorer off.

Give our front-line staff who’ve kept our country going a fair share of the nation’s wealth. To do any less shows man’s inhumanity to man and belittles the great work of the nation’s heroes.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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