Political unity over public sector pay

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A RARE political unity has been formed between Conservative and Labour politicians over public sector pay in the county.

The Labour group on Northumberland County Council is backing Hexham MP Guy Opperman’s opposition to the Government’s plans to introduce lower regional wages.

In a motion to next Wednesday’s full council meeting, members will urge the authority to fight the policy, saying it would harm the North East, depress wages generally and make it difficult to recruit the best teachers and medical staff.

And this has also been supported by the Northumberland Conservative group.

Mr Opperman has said he sees no economic argument for regional pay. He argues that someone working in the NHS in a deprived part of the North East deserves more pay than an equivalent worker in a London suburb.

The Labour group believes that reducing the real-terms pay of the county’s public sector workers, of which there are more than 35,000, will dramatically reduce spending power and have a negative impact on the private sector.

Its Leader, Grant Davey, said: “It’s time for the politicians of Northumberland to put their party politics to one side and to stand up for the people of the county. We agree with Mr Opperman’s position that regional pay ‘will not work’.

“This motion gives all parties in the council chamber a chance to send a strong message to the Coalition in London to say ‘hands off our public services and we say no to a race to the bottom of the pay league’.”

Coun Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland Conservatives, added: “It is wrong to discriminate against workers on the basis of where they live. It cannot be right that workers in Northumberland are paid less than people doing the same job in the Midlands or in the South East.

“Northumberland’s Conservative councillors are delighted to support Guy Opperman, who has led the opposition to these plans in the county.