Spending Review: What does it mean for Suffolk?
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk leaders have welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s commitment to policing, health, education and further Covid-19 support in today’s Spending Review, but the refusal to agree a blanket public sector pay rise has caused division.
Mr Sunak used his address to spell out additional cash being pumped into the Covid-19 response – a further £55billion next year on top of the £280bn already spent, as well as a “once in a generation” investment in key infrastructure schemes.
MORE: Lowestoft Gull Wing bridge gets green light in Spending ReviewAmong the other headline measures were:
• A pay rise for more than 1million NHS doctors and nurses
• A £250 pay rise for public sector workers on less than £24,000 per year
• A freeze on other public sector pay rises
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• A 2.2% increase to the National Living Wage, up to £8.91
• A £4bn Levelling Up fund for local authorities to bid for a share of their projects
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• Increased flexibility for how councils set their adult social care precept in the council tax bill
• The formation of a UK Infrastructure Bank to work with private sector firms in securing funding for key projects
• Reduced foreign aid spend from 0.7% of GDP down to 0.5%
• £18bn investment in Covid-19 vaccines and PPE
• A £4.6bn package to help unemployed people back to work
• £2.2bn extra for schools
• £400m to recruit 6,000 new officers
• £1bn to tackle backlogs of health procedures and a £6bn uplift in England’s health budget
Mr Sunak said that he “couldn’t justify” a public sector pay rise across the board when there were so many in the private sector struggling, but did commit to a £250 pay increase for lower paid public sector employees and a raise for one million NHS doctors and nurses.
MORE: Suffolk businesses respond to Spending ReviewIpswich MP Tom Hunt, Conservative, said he understood the reason for the public sector pay freeze but said that those workers had gone “above and beyond in the pandemic”.
He said: “I am very keen as soon as we are able that this is recognised”.
But the opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group at Mid Suffolk District Council said a pay freeze was “deplorable” for council staff who had “gone beyond the call of duty in delivering both council services and a tremendous response to the pandemic, despite the dramatic changes in the way that they have been required to work”.
Locally, the Lowestoft Third Crossing project, now known as the Gull Wing, was given consent in the government’s infrastructure priorities, and council bosses and MPs said they would consider bids to the Levelling Up fund for other schemes which could be eligible.
Mr Hunt said the spending went as far as was responsible given the huge challenge Covid-19 presented to government finances, and welcomed the commitment for new police officers and prison places, which he said was important for many Ipswich constituents.
On the Levelling Up fund, he said: “I am keen to find out more about that – my understanding is the fund will be for the whole country. There is a recognition that it is not just the north and Midlands but every part of the country including East Anglia and Ipswich that needs to see investment in local projects.”
Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich said: “The extra money for the NHS is very welcome news” and said that it was “appropriate to have a reward” to recognise NHS staff who had faced tough conditions since March.
“It’s been a particularly gruelling job on the frontline dealing with Covid, and losing patients that otherwise may still be here,” he added.
MORE: Big gains eyed for East’s logistics sectorDr Poulter said he was keen to see areas of deprivation in Suffolk like Ipswich and Lowestoft benefit from government spending.
However, he was disappointed foreign aid spending had been reduced, as it was an important part of Britain’s diplomacy and standing in both Europe and globally, and could even help facilitate trade deals post-Brexit.
Details for how the flexibility afforded to local authorities on the adult social care precept are yet to be spelled out, but Suffolk County Council cabinet member for finances, Gordon Jones, said it was “certainly a positive thing”.
He added: “Today’s Spending Review reflects many of the real challenges we have all had to experience as a county and as a country over the past 12 months.
“We welcome the chancellor’s commitment to investing more into social care services for our most vulnerable residents and supporting our schools by increasing funding for each pupil.
“It is absolutely right to invest in the measures needed to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic as we all strive to work together towards returning our communities to a greater degree of normality.
“We all have a part to play in this but it is good to recognise the chancellor’s determination to support local jobs, particularly those who work in public services on lower wages and people who care for us all in the NHS.”