1 per cent NHS pay rise is ‘deeply insulting’ says Sir Keir Starmer after Sussex hospital visit

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has condemned a proposed one per cent NHS pay rise as ‘deeply insulting’.

The Labour leader made the comments after visiting Crawley Hospital yesterday, March 11, where he praised workers for their ‘upbeat spirit’.

Sir Keir, the Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras, said: “I was there struck by the fact lots of people across the South East and Crawley have come together. Volunteers in there to help deliver the vaccine.

“There was a real upbeat spirit in there which I think is what’s going to get us through.”

Keir Starmer visited Crawley Hospital. Photo: Labour Party

But he criticised the one per cent pay rise proposed by the Government as not enough and ‘an insult’.

The former director of public prosecutions added: “It’s a pay cut. If inflation is due to run at 1.7 per cent you’re giving them a pay cut. It’s deeply insulting.

“They have been under unimaginable pressure. The Prime Minister clapped our carers and now he is slamming the door on them.”

Sir Keir said NHS staff have continued to offer home visits and now face a huge backlog ‘through no fault of their own’.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, visited Crawley yesterday. He is pictured with council leader Peter Lamb. Photo: Labour Party

A Government spokesman said: “Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2 per cent.”

Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, he added.

The spokesman said: “We will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment. That’s with record numbers of doctors and 10,500 more nurses working in our NHS compared to last year, and with 2021 nursing university applications up by over a third.

“We have asked the independent pay review bodies to report in late spring and we will consider their recommendations carefully when we receive them.”

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, visited Crawley yesterday. Photo: Labour Party

The opposition leader also called on the Government to ‘deliver on its promise’ to provide a support package for the aviation industry during a visit to Crawley on March 11.

Sir Keir said: “We want a viable aviation sector. We want Gatwick to be thriving in the future.

“We do need to have a package in place to ensure that aviation doesn’t drop off.

“So many jobs across the south east depend on Gatwick – the Government needs to deliver on its promise.”

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, visited Crawley yesterday. He is pictured with council leader Peter Lamb. Photo: Labour Party

The Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras said he was struck by the sight of just two or three vehicles in an airport car park which was packed before coronavirus laid waste to international travel.

Traffic at Gatwick Airport declined by 78 per cent in 2020 and a large percentage of the Crawley workforce is either furloughed or claiming benefits.

BBC Radio Sussex, BBC Radio Surrey and this newspaper have joined forces to launch #CrawleyTogether as we shine a spotlight on the issues faced by people in the area.

And the former director of public prosecutions has praised people in the town for pulling together during tough times.

He said: “I have been really struck by how Crawley has stood together. Seeing different people looking after each other, supporting each other. Groups of people down at the [Crawley] hospital from different walks of life volunteering, coming together.

“That captures the very, very best of Crawley. It demonstrates what it is to be human in a pandemic and all credit to them.”

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: “We know that Gatwick is the biggest driver for the local economy and jobs and, with that responsibility, we are keen to do all we can to ensure there is a swift local economic upturn as we rebuild our passenger numbers.

“While we welcome the extension of the furlough scheme to protect jobs, until passenger numbers hopefully start to increase in the months ahead, we are disappointed about the inadequate level of business rates relief provided, particularly given the significant bill that Gatwick is required to pay.

“New travel restrictions have had a dramatic economic impact on the airport and brought international travel through the airport to a virtual standstill, so we would like the £4 million cap on business rates relief increased significantly to help us maintain a critical piece of infrastructure that the economy relies so heavily on.”

The Government spokesman said: “The Government has put in place one of the most comprehensive packages of business support in the world, and we are continuing to explore how best to support all sectors across the economy, including the travel industry.

“The Budget set out the next phase of support available for businesses – including the extension of Government-backed loans and furlough payments, which build on around £7bn of support already pledged for the aviation sector since the start of the pandemic.”