Monday, 30 April 2012

A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work

My column in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the Government’s record and, in particular, their plans for regional pay. It is as follows:

April was a bad month for the Government.

It is still reeling from the ongoing criticism of George Osborne’s unpopular budget – not least, for their planned tax-breaks for millionaires, negative changes to tax allowances for pensioners, as well as the VAT on pasties, VAT on works on Listed Buildings and more.

There was also the “petrol panic” following poor ministerial advice, as well as the ongoing Leveson Inquiry which focussed on links between the Government and Robert Murdoch’s newspaper empire.

In the House of Commons, their difficulties were even branded an “omni-shambles.”

And then, the news broke that economic growth had stalled, dropping the United Kingdom back into recession – the first “double dip” recession in decades.

I believe this clearly shows that the Chancellor’s harsh and unforgiving austerity programme has been a failure. The Government has cut public spending too severely and the promised private sector progress has been much slower than they predicted.

It is the less-well-off and ordinary working people, in places like Cornwall, that have suffered most from Government reforms and the cuts to public services.

Indeed, the Sunday Times “Rich List” shows that the fortunes of the UK’s one thousand wealthiest people have actually increased by nearly 5% during the last year – making them richer than ever before.

To make matters worse, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has also announced that he backs lower pay for NHS staff in poorer areas – with the only exception to be highly-paid managers tasked to deliver the Government’s controversial and unpopular reforms to the National Health Service.

Lansley’s plan for regional pay would mean that nurses, midwives, paramedics, porters and cleaners would earn less in deprived areas like ours, while employees in more affluent areas would get more.

For decades, there have been campaigns to ensure that individuals get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and do not lose out because of their gender, race or personal circumstances.

So how can it be right that public sector workers could be paid less because they happen to work in Cornwall?

It is disgraceful that the Government wants to entrench Cornwall as a low wage area, siphoning off money to be spent in London and the South East, increasing inequality across the UK.

This is unacceptable and the Coalition must be made to think again.

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