Devolved nations send joint letter over cost-of-living

FINANCE Minister Kate Forbes has joined her counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland to highlight “significant gaps” in cost-of-living support and call for urgent action from the UK Government.

Source > The National

By Jane McLeod

18 July 2022

In a joint letter to Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi – who replaced leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak earlier this month – the three ministers have said the focus should be on targeted support for the worst hit by soaring prices, rather than broad-based tax reductions.

Forbes, alongside Wales and Northern Ireland’s respective finance ministers Rebecca Evans and Conor Murphy, has also urged the Chancellor to develop a fair approach to public sector pay which values the vital role of workers.

And the trio have asked for a boost in devolved Budgets to deal with significant emerging pressures, including in the NHS.

The letter is split into three sections entitled Cost-of-Living, Public Sector Pay and Spending Pressures.

In the first section, the ministers say the cost-of-living crisis is not “evenly distributed”.

It states: “Our Governments continue to do all we can to maximise the support for households with the cost-of-living crisis. However, many of the levers which can make the biggest difference sit with the UK Government.

“Whilst we recognise the measures taken by the UK Government to date have relieved some of the pressure on households, further action is required to address significant gaps in support for vulnerable households, families, businesses and the delivery of services.

“The prospect that the Autumn energy price cap increase will be more than anticipated will only add to the pressures they are facing.

“The cost-of-living crisis is not evenly distributed, and the focus should be on providing targeted support to those most adversely impacted, rather than reducing broad-based taxes.”

The ministers have then called for the public sector workforce to be treated “fairly”, highlighting that Zahawi placed importance on valuing staff as education secretary.

They urged him to give firmer assurances on “sensible” pay uplifts.

The letter goes on to say: “As former education secretary, you recognised the risks of potentially significant real price pay cuts and placed importance on valuing our public sector workers who have played a vital role in delivery of our collective priorities and in responding to the pandemic.

“These will be important considerations as the UK Government develops its approach.

“We need a fair and appropriate response on public sector pay and urge you to give firmer assurances on sensible pay uplifts for our public sector workers.”

Forbes, Evans and Murphy then highlight how their devolved settlements for the next three years are now worth much less than when they formulated their spending plans last year due to inflation.

They said this should be taken into consideration and budgets must be uplifted.

“In addition to the public pay bill and the rising public energy costs, there are other significant emerging pressures for our services, including education and enabling NHS recovery and reform,” the letter states.

“Our budgets should be uplifted in line with these pressures. The NHS turns 75 next year and this presents a much- needed opportunity to boost funding for the service which so many of us rely on.”

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