Gazette letters: Public sector, justice, immigration, second lockdown and benefit check

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan watched socially-distanced sports training, during a visit to Mossbourne

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan watched socially-distanced sports training, during a visit to Mossbourne Riverside Academy on Friday - the day he announced a �2.1 million investment to provide opportunities and a package of focused support for vulnerable young Londoners who have been most impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

On Tuesday it was announced that nearly 900,000 public sectors workers will get an above-inflation pay rise - well deserved, though it will not bring them back to pre-austerity pay levels, writes Marion Macapline, of Hackney Keep Our NHS Public:

Will frontline staff at Homerton hospital outsourced to private sector ISS - equally well deserved and overwhelmingly from BAME communities - also get this pay rise?

Homerton Management is insisting on extending the contract with ISS for cleaning, portering and catering services for an inexplicable five years, which means those staff will continue to get much lower pay and worse conditions than if they were directly employed by the hospital.

Shame on you Homerton Management.

Much national media coverage on Tuesday suggested that public sector workers were to benefit from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s largesse, but the headlines conveyed a partial and misleading picture, writes George Binette, Hackney North and Stoke Newington Constituency Labour trade union liaison officer.

In fact, less than a quarter of some 4.4 million public sector employees are affected by the announcement, which simply accepts the recommendations of independent pay review bodies.

Of course, the modest real term increases come after nearly a decade of real term pay cuts, which have drastically eroded the actual value of salaries for large sections of the workforce, especially in local government, by more than 20 per cent since 2010.

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While some teachers will see salaries rise by more than 3pc, the typical figure will be closer to 2.5pc with schools obliged to finance increases from already overstretched budgets.

At Hackney’s Homerton Hospital doctors will be seeing salary increases, but there is no new money for other direct NHS employees including nurses covered by an Agenda for Change settlement dating from 2018. Those staff at the top of their grades look likely to see no increase at all this year. Meanwhile, the 200 (+) cleaners, porters, catering and reception/security staff outsourced to the multinational ISS, who have proved to be such essential workers midst the Covid pandemic, will derive no benefit whatsoever from the Chancellor’s announcement.

Beneath the headlines this is the reality facing so many across the NHS as a result of inadequate funding and the race to the bottom fuelled by large-scale privatisation.

Rod Charles’ measured piece on policing in Hackney’s communities is illuminated by the details of the Frampton Park altercation that have been reported, write Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.

The police tell us they were attempting to detain a suspect when bystanders attacked them. But reports say that the three adults charged face prosecutions only relating to that fighting and not to any prior event. If this is accurate the suspect didn’t face enough evidence to warrant the CPS bringing charges and thus the police action could well be unjustified.

PC Macpherson’s complains that the public’s view of the police is “skewed” by a small number of incidents. This is answered by Rod Charles’ explanation that high profile events do not exist in a vacuum but are viewed through the lens of the community’s experience of day to day policing. It is that experience which should concern our police forces.

And our legal system should question how a 13-year-old is going to pay costs of £307. His parents were not in the dock yet they will foot the bill. This is hardly justice.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s concerning to see the home secretary rush through major immigration legislation lacking in detail, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member, Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

The Covid-19 outbreak has opened-up a long-overdue debate over how we define “unskilled work”. The government’s decision to introduce a points system, but not specifically address this issue, is short-sighted and could put key services at risk. The home secretary appears to confuse low-pay with low-skill – nothing could be further from the truth for our highly-skilled, but definitely under-paid, care staff.

The prime minister recently issued a call to “build, build, build”, but these new immigration proposals also leave us uncertain about whether we will be able to fill the gaps in our construction workforce.

The exclusion of our care workers from the new Health and Social care visa scheme, despite their heroic efforts throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, is another irresponsible move and a blow to care homes, when there are thousands of vacancies in the workforce.

We were able to rebuild our nation in the wake of Second World War because of the wide-ranging contributions of those that came to our country from across the Commonwealth. As we face up to a deep recession, we must keep this crucial lesson from recent history in mind.

Londoners and London businesses have worked really hard to suppress the spread of coronavirus, but I’m worried that there is a risk of a second wave of cases, writes Caroline Russell, London Assembly member.

I asked at City Hall last week if London is ready for a second lockdown if necessary. It is, but let’s keep working together, even as more businesses open up, to stay safe by wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport, walking and cycling if you can and keep on keeping our distance.

The BBC plans to make most over-75s pay the TV licence fee but will continue to provide licenses to over-75s who claim pension credit, writes June Bennett, Benefit Answers.

Four out of 10 households that could receive pension credit are not claiming the benefit. So if you have ever wondered if you could be eligible for pension credit now is the time to find out if only to save the cost of the TV licence! Even if you have claimed before and been refused you may be entitled now. Benefitanswers offer a FREE check which will tell you if you could be entitled to pension credit. For your free check telephone 0330 223 4773.

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