LONDON, 6 July : Theresa May has stood firm in the face of mounting pressure to ease austerity, saying the country must live within its means.
During a rowdy session of PMQs, the Prime Minister was repeatedly questioned about her policy to restrict pay increases to 1% for the police, nurses, doctors and other public sector workers.
She said the Government would consider recommendations about public sector pay levels “very carefully”, but insisted that any decision to lift the cap must be measured against the need for fairness and fiscal discipline.
“That is the balance that we need to strike and we continue to assess that balance,” she said.
Mrs May added: “There are outstanding pay review body reports, those cover teachers, prison officers, police officers and senior salaries and the Government will consider those reports very carefully and will respond to them.
“But while we do that we will always recognise that we need to take those decisions against the need to live within our means.”
The PM’s robust defence comes as pressure to ease austerity after seven years has been piling – and puts her on a collision course with members of her own Cabinet.
Critics say the 1% pay rise amounts to a pay cut as inflation is about to hit 3%.
Public support for firefighters, doctors and other emergency workers has increased in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire and of the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester.
Tens of thousands of people marched in the capital last weekend to demand an end to austerity.
The Cabinet has been split on the issue, with Boris Johnson recently backing a move to ease the 1% limit.
During PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn sought to expose those divisions, saying there had been a “week of flipflopping and floundering” by the Government.
He accused the Conservatives of “recklessly exploiting the goodwill” of public sector workers.
“There is a low pay epidemic in this country, and it has a terrible effect on young people,” said the Labour leader.
In a reference to the Tories’ deal with the DUP to prop up Mrs May’s minority government, Mr Corbyn said: “The Prime Minister found £1bn to keep her own job. Why can’t she find the same amount of money to keep nurses and teachers in their own job, who after all serve all of us?”
Mrs May has insisted that Labour had left the Conservatives with the “biggest deficit in our peacetime history”.
She said: “I know (Mr Corbyn) has taken to calling himself a government in waiting.
“We all know that means – waiting to put up taxes, waiting to destroy jobs, waiting to bankrupt our country. We will never let it happen.”