There has been much discussion about the public sector pay cap and whether or not it should be lifted. As someone who worked as a nurse when the public sector pay freeze was introduced in 2010, I know exactly how tough it is to manage on a nurse’s salary. However the Government has a difficult balance to strike between ensuring we value our doctors, teachers, police officers with their pay, with balancing the books on behalf of all tax payers.
Running the country is no different to managing the family finances, the ideal situation is to earn more than we spend. However as a country pre 2010, we ran up huge debts and still today, despite years of tough fiscal management, our deficit is still £46 billion a year. That means we spend more as a country than we earn with the implications being we spend close to £40 billion on interest payments each year. Think what we could do with that money if we weren’t spending it on interest payments.
To lift the cap would cost an extra £6 billion to add to our deficit and debt payments but if we want to give public sector workers a pay rise there are three options open to us.
Firstly we could increase taxes so we have more money coming in. I personally do not support this method as the very people we are giving a pay rise to would end up spending their pay rise on paying more tax and as Conservatives we have spent the last few years taking the lowest earners out of paying tax altogether and so this would seem a backwards step.
The second option is to borrow more. However I hope I have shown why this would not be a wise move for the country. In the long term we need to have tackled the deficit so that our interest payments can start to reduce.
The final option is to look at our funding priorities as a country. This is where, I believe, we need the public debate. I personally want to see our front line public sector workers getting a pay rise and that is why I am working with the Royal College of Nursing to support their campaign for nurses but to pay for this we need to take the money from somewhere. Tough decisions would need to be made about looking at the funding of say the international aid budget, projects like HS2 or trident renewal. There is no easy answer.
Promising the country a blank cheque to pay for pay rises, to abolish student debt and end austerity all sound great, but the reality is what we spend today, as with the family credit card, has to be paid for tomorrow.