Cllr Joanna Reynolds is a councillor in Clapham Common ward. Below is Cllr Reynolds’s speech in support of Labour’s motion on ending the public sector pay freeze at Lambeth Full Council on Wednesday 20 January 2021.
We all know the pandemic has had a devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. So many people have died – over 300 in Lambeth from Covid-19 – and many hard-working people have lost their jobs. This is a time when we all need to support each other.
We all stood outside, with our neighbours, clapping for the NHS, care workers, key workers front line workers during the first lockdown. In a previous Council debate, I made the comment that I hoped the clapping would be accompanied by better working conditions. Because that’s really the way to say thank you and make it clear that they are appreciated.
And yet that hasn’t happened. Many key workers have had their pay frozen and if the reports are correct, could have other basic workers’ rights worsened which will mean all of us are worse off.
We are living in a time of enormous stress and threat. People are scared. Concerned for their children’s education and future; worried about getting the virus, losing their jobs, having enough to eat.
For those in work, working crazy hours and facing the challenge of being at home, often with no physical interaction with colleagues. All of which is driving serious mental health challenges for so many of our key workers.
It is difficult to look beyond the day to day. Which makes me fear what will happen concerning the climate emergency.
Whilst all this is happening, all this upheaval, worry, concern, stress, the government are freezing the salaries of the very people we were thanking; whilst threatening to remove the additional £20 Universal Credit payment which helps the families who are the hardest hit by current events and removing free school meals for the February half term.
37,000 children in Lambeth live in poverty and 10,000 children are eligible for free school meals; 33,000 families receive universal credit payments. And all these numbers are rising and will continue to rise due to leaving the European Union and Covid-19.
Freezing pay, removing the universal credit top up, removing free school meals. What is going on. This is cruel, unacceptable and uncaring.
We are committed to continuing to build the community in Lambeth we all want. Helping each other, supporting each other, caring for each other. That’s the Lambeth and Britain we all want to live in.
Do the right thing Conservative Government. Keep the £20 Universal Credit payment; reverse the decision on the pay freeze; ensure the real living wage it paid to everybody over 18 – and in Lambeth the London living wage is paid.
Do it. Make the decision now.