Rishi Sunak vows to make migrants pay for £2billion wage boost

Teachers are expected to call off their strikes after the Government’s pay announcement yesterday – but doctors vowed to take industrial action on the below-inflation settlement.

The Prime Minister ruled out more borrowing and tax rises as ways to fund the £2billion package.

Mr Sunak said: “What we have done are two things to find this money. 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.

“And indeed, something called the immigration health surcharge which is the levy that they pay to access the NHS. So all of those fees are going to go up and that will raise over a billion pounds.”

The charity Praxis, which supports migrants and refugees, claimed that the Government was treating people born outside the UK as “cash cows”.

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Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, its public affairs manager, said raising “already eye-wateringly high” visa fees risks seeing people fall deeper into poverty and insecurity.

But Mr Sunak said choices had to be made over funding public sector pay rises. He added: “I’m not shying away from that, because I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Around half of the cost will be met by a rise of up to 20 per cent in visa fees and increasing the immigration health surcharge from £624 to £1,035.

Whitehall departments will also have to “reprioritise” resources to help pay the rest of the bill.

Mr Sunak insisted that was “not about cuts” but was “just about focusing on public sector workers’ pay rather than other things”.

He added: “And I’m really pleased that the teaching unions specifically have said that this pay offer is properly funded.”

The classroom unions said they would urge members to accept the offer, which would bring to an end months of strike action.

In a joint statement the ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT and NEU said: “A 6½ percent increase for teachers and school leaders recognises the vital role that teachers play in our country and ensures that teaching will continue to be an attractive profession.” They said the offer was “properly funded” and schools will receive extra cash for it.

Union chiefs who will put the offer to members said: “This deal will allow teachers and school leaders to call off strike action and resume normal relations with Government.” But doctors’ leaders at the BMA said they feel they had “no option but to take industrial action” after years of below-inflation pay awards.

Junior doctors, who yesterday began their longest walkout yet in England, will receive rises of six percent plus a £1,250 bonus.

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Hospital consultants, due to strike in England next week, will be given six per cent too. Some doctors who are training will receive more than 10 percent.

Mr Sunak insisted the awards will not be reviewed, even if some staff take further industrial action.

He said: “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.”

He urged consultants and junior doctors to accept the pay offer and warned strikes made it “far harder” for care backlogs to be cleared.

The PM said the awards were based on recommendations from independent pay review bodies “which we have accepted in full”.

He added: “I would urge them to accept this offer from the independent bodies. And that way we can all work collectively together to bring the backlogs down. I know that that’s what the vast majority of them want to see happen.

“That’s what I want to see happen and I’m prepared to work with them to do that.”

Professor Phil Banfield, the BMA’s chairman of council, called the offer “yet another pay cut in real terms and [it] serves only to increase the losses faced by doctors after more than a decade’s worth of sub-inflation pay awards.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the rise was fair: “It reflects the hugely important work that doctors do, and it’s an opportunity now for the NHS to move forward.”

He denied the Government would make department cuts to fund the increases, saying the proposed immigration surcharge rise “better reflects the increased costs of providing NHS cover to those who come to the UK” and a “fair and reasonable approach”.

He said the pay offer was final but added “My door is open to discuss other issues” with the BMA including working conditions in the NHS.

Tory MP Steve Brine, the chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, paid credit to teaching unions “for recognising reality”.

He added: “This decision is fair when you consider, as the Government must, the whole economy.”

Mr Brine claimed there had been “ongoing radicalisation” from the BMA with a determination to continue industrial action: “I would urge them to think again”.

Sharon Graham, the General Secretary of the Unite union, said: “By accepting the [Pay Review Body] recommendations and then not funding them the Government is putting its departments between a rock and a hard place. They now have to choose between paying workers a half-decent salary or cutting services in already underfunded public services.”

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