Councillors slam 1% NHS pay rise plan but Tories disagree

The government’s pay offer to NHS workers was slated by councillors last night, with one motion calling it a “slap in the face”.

Labour’s motion at last night’s meeting of Wirral Council, calling on the government to reconsider an “insulting” plan to boost NHS workers' pay by 1%, was passed by 41 votes to 19.

A similar motion, put forward by the Liberal Democrats, was also voted through by the same margin.

On both votes, Labour, along with the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Independent councillors backed giving NHS workers a bigger rise, but the Conservatives, apart from Cllr Ian Lewis, voted against both motions.

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Council leader Janette Williamson presented Labour’s motion, which made several key points about health workers’ pay.

The motion read: “Even with a 1% pay rise, nurses’ pay on Wirral will be £2,500 less than in 2010 when adjusted for inflation, with equivalent falls of £3,330 for paramedics and £850 for porters.”

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It added: “The Royal College of Nursing has stated there are already 40,000 nursing vacancies and that 'significant numbers' will leave after this 'slap in the face'.

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“Council notes the local Trust [ Wirral University Teaching Hospital] had the equivalent of 158 Band 5 full time vacancies (18.05%) in August 2020 and is already dealing with rising sickness rates as demands of the pandemic take [their] toll on frontline staff.”

The motion called on the leaders of all parties to highlight their disappointment at the pay rise offer.

One councillor who was wholeheartedly in favour of the motion was Independent Moira McLaughlin.

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Having worked for the NHS for 41 years, until she retired more than a decade ago, Cllr McLaughlin said nurses have historically been underpaid.

She added that key aspects of this were that nursing has been a female dominated profession and successive governments have taken advantage of the vocational element of the role.

The Rock Ferry member said that although nurses were underpaid, they were not undervalued by the public whose appreciation of them has never been higher.

The 1% offer was, she said, a terrible blunder from which the government needs to backtrack.

However, all but one member of the council’s Conservative group voted against both motions.

The group’s leader, Cllr Jeff Green, said NHS pay is currently being considered by an independent review body and we will wait to see what comes out of that.

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The West Kirby and Thurstaston member said he will always for grateful for the NHS and its response to the pandemic.

Cllr Green said he was cared for by nurses after suffering a stroke earlier in the pandemic and that his father was also cared for “brilliantly” prior to his death during the pandemic.

He added that while he can understand why the government was being criticised, it was increasing the number of nurses in training and that boosting numbers in the workforce was key to supporting existing NHS workers.

On the subject of pay, the Tory leader said nurses have had a 12% pay rise since 2017/18 and that an NHS nurse’s median average salary was £33,000 per year compared to £25,000 per year for the average worker.