Cllr Maria Kay speaking at Lambeth Full Council
Cllr Maria Kay speaking at Lambeth Full Council

Cllr Maria Kay is Lambeth’s Policy Lead for Income Generation and a councillor in Brixton Hill ward. Below is Cllr Kay’s speech in support of Labour’s motion on ending the public sector pay freeze at Lambeth Full Council on Wednesday 20 January 2021.

I just wanted to start by saying, for all our political differences – I’m glad that we are almost all united on such an important issue.

This year we learnt who the essential workers were in our society.

It wasn’t the hedge funds or people working in the city – but frontline workers – people without whom our schools, our hospitals and care homes couldn’t run. The people who were guarding our borders while the Government left them vulnerable to the spread of Covid-19. The police who still had to go in every day to keep us safe, the people who were collecting our bins, doing repairs and those keeping vulnerable families safe.

They couldn’t stay at home when it was too dangerous for the rest of us. They had to do their jobs and risk their lives. We owe them a great debt.

And I’m really pleased that we are united on this – Cllr Manley-Browne, Cllr Kind, Cllr Reynolds.

I also have to say that the contribution from Cllr Bartley from the Green Party was also excellent. Despite often being opponents – I’m pleased we can come together on this issue. The Green Party amendments on the real living wage and the vaccination of public sector workers add to this important motion – and I am pleased to give them our whole-hearted support.

Even Cllr Briggs, our lone Tory – while he may try and defend the indefensible – as he has tried to do so many times before – I can tell that deep in his heart, he is with us too.

As this Government grows more incompetent and heartless by the day – I sense the growth of his despair. There must be a sinking feeling as he realises it’s another one of those Wednesdays and he has to come to yet another Full Council; trying to excuse the lack of compassion and the lack of sense that his government demonstrates day by day.

Cllr Briggs, if you do really want to be on the side of the essential workers, if you do really want to be on the side of the low paid and if you do really want to be on the side of the most vulnerable – the only way to do that is to cut up your Tory membership card, cross the floor and join our party. Given our socialist values, I’m unsure how long you would last though.

Mr Mayor – it comes as no surprise that the party who brought us austerity in the face of the global financial crisis are shaping up to bring us austerity again in the face of the global pandemic.

In the same way they rewarded local government for stepping up by handing us an unprecedented financial crisis, they are rewarding teachers, police officers, border guards, prison officers, soldiers with yet another pay cut.

And make no mistake, while this doesn’t necessarily apply to local government, the funding we are collectively looking at will almost certainly force the national pay settlement for local government in exactly the same direction.

Since the start of the pandemic, our staff have stepped up to deliver new services in a world that changed overnight. They delivered tens of thousands of food parcels to the vulnerable, provided enormous support to businesses and sourced PPE for health and care providers. More recently they have acted to set up mass testing and vaccination programmes from scratch over the course of a few short weeks. All whilst delivering essential services that our residents expect from us and depend upon.

Our staff have achieved so much over the past year, as have so many other local government workers from across the country. And when I think about the prospect of their pay being frozen too – a real terms cut – it fills me with sadness. We should be under no illusions, what happens to the teachers, firefighters and police officers today – could happen to all of our staff through the national pay settlement in just a few months time.

That is why I urge everyone to support today’s motion – as a clear sign of solidarity not just with the affected public sector workers – but with our heroic staff – who have delivered so many times in such difficult circumstances.

Cllr Maria Kay

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