Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council
Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

Britain has sadly experienced more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The worst in Europe and one of the worst in the world.

We’ve also had the worst recession of any major economy.  We all know that a lot of money has been spent in the past year in the wake of the Coronavirus largely funded by borrowing. At some point this will have to be paid back. Yet we are still in lockdown and while the vaccine offers a way out, this will take time to administer. It is far too early to be making decisions that will affect people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Despite this, in November’s Spending Review on 25 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a ‘pay freeze’ for all public sector workers earning above £24,000 in 2021-22.

Analysis by Labour reveals that Chancellor will hit every key worker earning over £18,000 in England with a real-terms pay cut this year.

This includes at least 4,100 key workers across Banbury and Bicester – the teachers, police officers and Armed Forces personnel on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

NHS workers weren’t included, while those earning less than £24,000 were promised “a fixed increase of £250”.

Taking into account inflation over the next fiscal year, that means every non-NHS public sector worker earning over £18,000 will actually get a real-terms pay cut.

In Banbury and Bicester, this means 1,109 teachers will see their pay cut, as well as 15,829 police officers and over 90% of the 38,150 Armed Forces personnel based in the South East.

On top of the pay freeze, the Spending Review also contained a one-billion-pound council tax bombshell hidden in the small print and a cut to Universal Credit that will hit those who can least afford it.

Labour has condemned this triple hammer blow to people’s pockets as totally irresponsible when the economy is so fragile and is calling on the government to scrap its plans to hit family finances.

Making people worried about making ends meet will pull spending out of local high streets and small businesses, damaging consumer confidence at the very moment the Government should be building it up.

Here in Cherwell, it gets even worse. As well as a council tax hike, council tenants will be hit with a rent increase, town centre parking charges are going up again, and you’re even going to be asked to pay for brown bin collection.

Our high streets are in a fragile enough position. We’ve just seen Debenhams sold; while the brand will continue online, tens of thousands of staff will lose their jobs as stores shut.

Hitting people in Cherwell with these further hammer blows to their pockets in the middle of a pandemic is totally irresponsible.

We need a more responsible approach to secure our economy through this crisis and strengthen it over the long term.

Adapted from a Bicester Advertiser column by Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council.

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