Andrew Marr: Squeezing foreigners isn't enough, so how are public sector pay rises going to be funded?

13 July 2023, 18:15 | Updated: 13 July 2023, 18:17

Andrew Marr 13/07

Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Squeezing foreigners won't be enough to pay for public sector pay rises, so questions remains over how the government is going to pay for them, Andrew Marr has said.

It comes after Rishi Sunak announced a series of pay rises across the public sector, including for teachers, junior doctors, and police officers, ranging between five and seven per cent.

Reacting to the offers, LBC's Andrew Marr said the announcement of the pay offers may represent the "possibility of an unexpected political turnaround".

Andrew started his show: "So that was a surprise: up he pops, all shiny and bouncy and smiley and sure of himself, like a Prime Minister having fun.

"And he pops off his top hat and pulls out of it quite a surprise - the teaching unions are calling off all strikes immediately.

"As with a lot of people at Westminster I've had the sense recently that the Conservatives don't think for a moment Rishi Sunak can lead them into an election victory; that they've almost given up -  and many are rather desperately searching for jobs outside politics already.

"Well, if that seemed true even yesterday, I think that today's events at least begin to tell a different story, the possibility of an unexpected political turnaround. By accepting the public sector pay review awards in full, Rishi Sunak was able to announce, in perhaps the most theatrical moment of his career so far, that those teaching strikes were now off.

"Other unions are proving trickier: the prison officers have said they won't back down and Sharon Graham of the unite union has said that they pay offer will trigger more strikes.

"It looks as if Doctors also intend to carry on striking...Mr Sunak of course wants to portray himself, as the man who gets things done.

"By accepting the review body deal he’ll make it a bit more difficult for Labour to portray him as weak and ineffectual. But let's not gallop away with ourselves too fast and too far."

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Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

Andrew continued: These paper pay rises still mean real terms pay cuts. There will be plenty of people across the public sector furious about having them imposed - even if they can't say how more generous pay rises would be funded.

"It's too early to say whether the other unions will follow the teachers and agree the settlement. and then there's the question, the rather big question, of how these pay rises are going to be paid for because Mr Sunak said upfront they would cost billions of pounds that have not been budgeted for.

"Now, one way is raising the charges for NHS treatment for non-UK nationals, and also raising charges for visas, in that case to help fund the police pay increases.

"Everyone understands that if you’re going to squeeze money out of anyone, the best people to squeeze are non-voting foreigners - Labour thinks the same way, hence its current enthusiasm for non-dom taxes.

"Does Labour, by the way, agree with what the government has done - would it also honour these review body recommendations? Keir Starmer was a bit vague on the subject today."

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Junior doctors at a picket line outside University College Hospital
Junior doctors at a picket line outside University College Hospital. Picture: Alamy

Andrew finished: "Meanwhile, back to that fundamental question - how are these pay rises going to be funded. squeezing foreigners isn't enough - the prime minister also said he was reallocating money inside departments.

"To put it simply, they are going to spend less money on some things in order to spend more money on pay. When he was asked about the some things - what things will be cut - that's the hard question - Mr Sunak sashayed and tap-danced around the question and didn't give a single concrete example.

"The Conservatives wouldn't let Labour get away with making spending promises without explaining exactly how they were going to be funded, would they?"