LONDON— During the news conference at Downing Street, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed the government’s decision to accept the recommendations regarding public sector pay. Sunak emphasized the importance of fairness to both public service workers and taxpayers, who ultimately fund these decisions.

“We are accepting the headline recommendations of the Pay Review Bodies in full,” stated Sunak, “but we won’t do it with your taxes.” He highlighted the government’s commitment to not financing these pay increases through higher borrowing, as it can lead to a surge in inflation.

Explaining the financial constraints, Sunak pointed out that the government operates with a fixed budget. Therefore, other departments have had to make cuts to accommodate the funding required for the recommended pay uplifts.

According to Rishi Sunak, the government plans to assist in financing public sector salary increments by implementing a substantial increase in fees for visa applications and access to the National Health Service (NHS).

“The first is we’re going to increase the charges that we have for migrants who are coming to this country when they apply for visas,” said Sunak. “And indeed, something called the immigration health surcharge, which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS,” he added.

Prime Minister called upon all union leaders to accept the pay offers and put an end to ongoing strikes. In particular, he mentioned a “major breakthrough” with “all teaching unions” in response to the pay decision, stating that they have agreed to suspend all planned strikes immediately.

Furthermore, Sunak urged those who have not yet made similar decisions to “do the right thing and know when to say yes.” He questioned the continuation of disruptive industrial action, particularly within the National Health Service (NHS), while highlighting the growing waiting lists for medical care.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the offer made by the government is final. He stated unequivocally that there will be no further discussions or negotiations regarding this year’s settlement.

“Today’s offer is final. There will be no more talks on pay. We will not negotiate again on this year’s settlement and no amount of strikes will change our decision,” said Sunak.

Read a full transcript of Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing the new pay offer.

13/07/2023. London, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a press conference on public sector pay at 9 Downing Street. [Photo: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street]

When making decisions on pay, as your prime minister, I have a responsibility to be fair. Fair to public sector workers who do so much in the service of our country, but also fair to taxpayers who ultimately fund our public services.

And the best way we’ve found of making fair decisions about public sector pay are the independent pay review bodies.

They were called for by the unions themselves. And, for over four decades, they have been the independent arbiters of what is fair and responsible. Those bodies have considered a range of evidence about where to set this year’s pay. And their recommendations to government are for public sector pay rises to go up by a significant amount.

Now, clearly, this will cost all of you as taxpayers more than we had budgeted for. That’s why the decision has been difficult and why it has taken time to decide the right course of action.

I can confirm that, today, we’re accepting the headline recommendations of the pay review bodies in full. But we will not fund them by borrowing more or increasing your taxes.

It would not be right to increase taxes on everyone to pay some people more; particularly when household budgets are so tight. Neither would it be right to pay for them by higher borrowing, because higher borrowing simply makes inflation worse.

Instead, because we only have a fixed pot of money to spend from that means government departments have had to find savings and efficiencies elsewhere in order to prioritise paying public sector workers more.

Now there is a clear message here. There are always choices, budgets are not infinite. When some ask for higher pay, that will always create pressures elsewhere costs which must ultimately be borne by the taxpayer – or spending less on our other priorities.

So that’s our decision. And having honoured the independent pay review process, I urge all union leaders to accept these pay offers and call off their strikes.

Already, earlier this year, the NHS staff council representing over half a dozen unions, and over a million NHS workers made a significant decision and voted to accept our pay offer and suspend strikes.

I’m grateful to them and their members. And, today, in response to the news of our decision, I’m pleased to say that we’ve had another major breakthrough. All teaching unions have just announced that they’re suspending all planned strikes immediately.

Teachers will return to the classroom. Disruption to our children’s education will end. And the unions have themselves confirmed that this pay offer is properly funded. And so, they’re recommending to their members an end to the entire dispute.

So it is now clear: Momentum across our public services is shifting. The vast majority, who just want to get on with their life’s calling of serving others, are now returning to work.

And, in that spirit, I want to address those yet to do so. Now that we’ve honoured the independent pay recommendations, I implore you: Do the right thing, and know when to say yes.

In particular, for doctors and consultants, I would say this: We have a national mission for all of us to make the NHS strong again. The government has not only made today’s decision on pay, we’ve backed the NHS with record funding, delivered the first ever fully funded longterm workforce plan and met the BMA’s number one ask of government, with a pensions tax cut worth £1bn.

So, we should all ask ourselves, whether union leaders – or, indeed, political leaders – how can it be right to continue disruptive industrial action?

Not least because these strikes lead to tens of thousands of appointments being cancelled every single day, and waiting lists going up, not down.

So, today’s offer is final. There will be no more talks on pay. We will not negotiate again on this year’s settlements. And no amount of strikes will change our decision. Instead, the settlement we’ve reached today gives us a fair way to end the strikes. A fair deal for workers. And a fair deal for the British taxpayer. Thank you.

PM Rishi Sunak

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