Cllr Nanda Manley-Browne is Lambeth’s Education and School Champion and a councillor in Thornton ward. Below is Cllr Manley-Browne’s speech in support of Labour’s motion on ending the public sector pay freeze at Lambeth Full Council on Wednesday 20 January 2021.
In proposing this motion, I’d wish to start by reminding everyone, that the full story of this pandemic is yet to truly unfold. There are some winners – those who have kept their jobs and full pay and conditions. And, unfortunately, too many others left struggling to make ends meet.
The numbers we already know are devastating; aside from the high death toll and infection rates, there are numerous families/households with one or both adults furloughed. Lambeth continues to have one of the highest furlough numbers in central London, with 17,000 people furloughed, and this continues the pattern which has been seen since the furlough scheme started nearly a year ago.
The past 10 months have resulted in significant hardship. People have had to juggle bills and debt repayments while continuing to provide for their families on depleted incomes, as the cost of living has risen, and in such circumstances, coping has often meant skipping meals and making do with less.
With most children not physically at school, some who are reliant on free school meals going hungry, and some without access to a computer or the internet, it’s heart-breaking to think about the extent of just how many parents are struggling, and how many children are at home sharing a computer, or worse, a phone with siblings, in order to try and complete their school-work/assignments.
Additionally, countless communities remain in need of charitable help, and those charities who would usually support them, are also seriously underfunded and struggling to do more.
Such distressing realities really begin to paint the harrowing picture facing those who are struggling to make ends meet.
Then to further compound things, what does this heartless Tory government want to do? Pile more pressure on the families struggling through a pandemic, by neglecting them to bear the cost of the mounting Tory BREXIT, and forcing them to face a heartless back to the Thatcher 80s approach, of attacking our hardworking public sector staff – who need pay not just applause.
And all this comes, 2yrs after the Joseph Rowntree FOUNDATION said, that roughly 4 million people – including those in work – were struggling. This government knows no bounds, to how low it is prepared to go.
And as Frances O’Grady, the leader of the TUC said, “before Brexit they promised to improve workers’ rights, not reduce them”, as they appear to be planning to do.
“Carers, fire-fighters, bus drivers, shop workers, refuse collectors, teachers, cleaners and many others, all worked around the clock, during the crisis, to keep our country going – often at great personal risk. So, after suffering a decade of lost pay, yet another pay freeze is no way to reward our key public sector workers.”
As Baroness Lawrence’s recently highlighted in her Avoidable Crisis review, “we already know, that coronavirus is having a disproportionate and devastating impact on Black Asian & ME communities. The pandemic has thrived on inequalities that have long scarred British society. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more likely to work in frontline or shutdown sectors which have been overexposed to Covid-19, more likely to have co-morbidities which increase the risk of serious illness and more likely to face barriers to accessing healthcare.”
Despite being aware of all this, the Government has not done enough to protect people, and as transmission surges once again across the country, the need for this action could not be more urgent.
Step-Change, the largest UK debt charity data says that personal debt has increased since last March; further highlighting the financial pressures that many households across the UK were already facing prior to the start of the pandemic.
And as Gavin Kelly, the chair of the Resolution Foundation said, “at a time when many are talking about the need for a new social contract in the wake of the pandemic, the UK should not weaken safety nets mid-storm; by stripping away benefit increases that have only just been introduced like the universal credit uplift.”
With unprecedented times ahead, it’s essential that all policy makers put the correct steps and safety nets in place, both short-term and long-term, in order to support an increasing proportion of households, who do not have the financial resilience required to cope with the financial impact of life events.
Similarly, “as Unions continue fight for the proper pay rise that our key workers have earned. Working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”
We need to hold this government to that, and at the same time, properly champion an increase in public sector pay for our civil servants, our teachers and all our hardworking staff, through these war-like consequences of the pandemic.
Therefore, I urge all members of this council to endorse, and support our motion.
Cllr Nanda Manley-Browne