Six Things You Might Have Missed The Government Announce This Week
MPs have now left Westminster for the summer and will return in early September.
As is tradition, the government slipped out a few announcements in the final week in what is often seen as an attempt to “hide” the bad news. Here are six of the best – or perhaps worst.
No new money for NHS pay rise
The government announced on Wednesday that NHS staff in England will get a 3% pay rise, after having previously said it would be limited to just 1%.
The Department for Health and Social Care said the “average nurse” will receive an additional £1,000 a year, while many porters and cleaners will get around £540.
But not only have unions branded the 3% increase “disappointing” given the work put in by NHS staff during the pandemic, the government also confirmed that there will be no new money to fund it.
No.10 admitted the rise – thought to cost £2.2 billion – would come out of the existing health service’s budget.
A pay freeze for police
Priti Patel revealed this week that police officers earning more than £24,000 will have their pay frozen. Those earning less will be given an annual rise of £250.
In an announcement made on Wednesday in a written ministerial statement, the home secretary said the freeze was to ensure “fairness between public and private sector wage growth”.
The move prompted an angry response from the the Police Federation of England and Wales, which said it no longer has confidence in Patel and branded it the “the final straw”.
A pay freeze for teachers
Gavin Williamson also slipped out a pay freeze for teachers on Wednesday.
In a written ministerial statement on Wednesday, the education secretary said it was part of the pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22.
Under the plan teachers earning less than £24,000 will get a £250 pay increase.
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said it was a “real-terms pay cut” for the vast majority of teachers and was “an insult after the heroic work they have done to keep children safe and learning throughout the pandemic”.
Asylum seekers ‘failed’ by Home Office
The government has finally published a report that condemned the Home Office for housing asylum seekers in former military bases that were “impoverished, run down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”.
Nearly 200 people at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, contracted Covid-19 during a major outbreak earlier this year.
The report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration accused Priti Patel’s department of “failures of leadership and planning”.
The home secretary had previously blamed asylum seekers for the Covid cases, rather than the cramped conditions they were forced to live in.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said the report showed “a complete failure by the Home Office to follow public health advice or meet basic standards of competence and safety”
“Ministers have clearly attempted to hide it by releasing it on the last day of the parliamentary session.”
Tax rises for social care
Downing Street did not deny on Tuesday that National Insurance contributions could be increased to fund a new social care plan, a move that would break a Conservative manifesto pledge.
Boris Johnson is reportedly considering plans to raise National Insurance payments by one percentage point for employers and employees to raise £10 billion a year to help support the ageing population.
There had been widespread expectation that a plan would be put forward before the summer, but the three main players who would be involved in the decision – the prime minister, chancellor and health secretary – are all self-isolating.
Compensation for postmasters
The government has agreed to fund interim compensation of up to £100,000 for each postmaster who has had their conviction overturned in the scandal over the Horizon computer system.
Earlier this week the Court of Appeal cleared 12 more former subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences, bringing the total number of judgements overturned to 57, but hundreds more are hoping for similar decisions.
Between 1999 and 2015, they were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to vanish from accounts at their branches.
The problems were caused by the Horizon computer system in Post Office branches which turned out to be flawed.
Some subpostmasters were imprisoned after being convicted of stealing money.