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NHS pay rises will cost £4bn and will be funded from ‘areas of underspending’, govt says | Politics News

The government needs to find £4bn in spare cash to fund NHS pay rises, with some of it coming from “areas of underspend”.

The one-off payment offered to frontline workers on Thursday will cost £2.7bn, Downing Street has said, while the 5% pay rise will cost £1.3bn.

A 3.5% pay increase had already been factored into the existing budget before a new deal was put to health unions, leaving ministers scrambling to find the rest.

Asked where the money will come from, the PM’s spokesperson said “areas of underspending” had been identified.

They did not go into specifics but added “we will discuss with Treasury and work together to resolve any new funding needs”.

Pressed on the source of the funding again, they said the money is “not coming from patient-facing services”.

Ministers previously said they can’t afford to give striking NHS workers a pay rise because the money would have to be taken out of the existing NHS budget – which was not considered an option at a time of record-high waiting lists.

But there was a major breakthrough on Thursday as the government and unions reached a new deal that could herald the end of industrial action across most of the health service.

The offer consists of a one-off payment of 2% of their salary plus a COVID recovery bonus of 4% for the current financial year 2022/23, and a 5% pay increase for 2023/24.

Workers on the picket line outside Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham during a strike by nurses and ambulance staff. Picture date: Monday February 6, 2023.
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The government has insisted the pay deal to end strikes won’t come out of the budget for patient services

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it will apply to thousands of key workers including nurses, paramedics and midwives but could not say how the rise would be funded.

When questioned on this he deferred to the Treasury, saying only that it “would not come from areas of the budget that impact on patients”.

The prime minister gave a similar answer when pressed during a visit to a south London hospital on whether patient care would be hit, saying: “Absolutely not. We’re going to be making sure we protect all frontline services with £14bn of more funding we announced at the end of last year.”

Unions have recommended members vote for the pay rise, and have agreed to pause industrial action during that process.

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Junior doctors have welcomed pay talks with the Health Secretary and are ‘hopeful’ the dispute can be resolved to avert further strikes.

Tens of thousands of nurses, paramedics and other healthcare staff went on strike just before Christmas, then again in January and February, leading to the cancellation of around 140,000 appointments and operations.

Labour have criticised the government for delays in getting around the negotiating table, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting branding his government counterpart “lastminute.com Steve Barclay”.

Speaking to Sky News, he accused the health secretary of “having cheek” by deferring questions on how the pay rise will be funded to the Treasury, adding: “Newsflash Steve Barclay, the budget was yesterday.

“If he pulled his finger out before Christmas and negotiated a deal, not only would we have avoided the strike action and the 140,000 cancelled operations and appointments, he might have got a better deal for the NHS.”

The breakthrough has sparked hopes of resolving other long-running industrial disputes, with the government and education unions beginning “intensive” talks today on pay and conditions.

Asked whether an offer to teachers could look similar to the NHS deal, the PM’s spokesperson stressed that each pay offer is “unique”, and the two-pronged agreement is “specific to the work NHS staff have done”.

Asked if that recognition will apply to junior doctors, who are embroiled in a separate dispute, the spokesperson said: “We want talks to start as soon as possible but its dependent on them cancelling or pausing strikes. As soon as they pause strike action we can have talks.”

UK ‘chronically’ underspending on climate change adaptation, warns watchdog | Climate News

The risks of heatwaves, droughts, flooding and failing critical infrastructure are increasing in the UK due to global warming, but the government has been too slow in acting to limit them, according to a new report from its climate change watchdog.

Adapting to higher temperatures and the more intense heatwaves and storms they are predicted to bring, requires investment of around £10bn a year, says the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Spending on everything from flood defences, to more heat-resilient homes, to improved drinking water supplies is falling well short of what is needed to insulate the UK from climate impacts, according to the report.

“It is no secret that the UK is now experiencing a range of damaging consequences of climate change, but adaptation in the UK remains chronically underfunded and overlooked. This must change,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee.

When it comes to reducing the risk of climate change itself through its net zero strategy, the government has been clear in defining priorities, says the report.

The same approach has to be used in adapting to the warming that is inevitable due to global warming that’s already under way, it warns.

Key recommendations include improving drainage in urban areas to cope with flooding from extreme rainfall; making more use of “nature based solutions” to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea and rivers; and increasing the ability of the public water system to cope with drought, including investment in new reservoirs and “interconnectors” between water companies.

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The Daily Climate Show

The committee also singled out the need to “climate-proof” infrastructure like roads and railways and the need to retrofit homes to cope with excess heat.

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The Office for National Statistics recently estimated 2,800 excess deaths were linked to heatwaves last summer.

Some actions require direct investment, particularly things like flood defences or tree planting to reduce flood risk, the report finds.

However, many others can be funded by changing planned investments to factor in things like increased temperatures or flood risk, when it comes to improving water supplies, or building new roads, bridges or railways.

“Integrating climate risk into economic and financial decision-making across society is essential for urgently needed investments in our national climate resilience to materialise,” said Ben Caldecott, a co-author of the report.

A failure to invest now, will ultimately cost more, the report argues. It cites a Bank of England study from last year that found climate risks would become a “persistent drag” on banks’ and insurers’ profits of around 10-15% a year.