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Rishi Sunak to scrap public sector pay freeze in autumn budget

pay freeze

Rishi Sunak to scrap public sector pay freeze in autumn budget

Rishi Sunak will end the public sector pay freeze for millions of workers and increase the national minimum wage in the budget on Wednesday, though economists warned the measures would not compensate for inflation rises and cuts to universal credit.

The chancellor is set to confirm that the yearlong “pause” on public sector pay, which affected 2.6 million teachers, police and civil servants during the pandemic, will be lifted as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

On Monday he also confirmed that the UK’s national living wage will rise from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour for workers aged 23 and over from April, a 6.6% increase, meaning a pay rise for millions of low-paid workers after ministers accepted the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation.

The announcements mean about 7.5 million people could see their pay rise – about 5.7 million working in the public sector and 2 million on minimum wage, though there is some crossover. Just under half of public-sector workers were affected by last year’s freeze, with exemptions for NHS workers and those earning less than £24,000.

Sunak imposed the controversial public sector pay freeze in November 2020 and it came into force in April. At the time, he said, it was unfair for millions of workers to get a rise while many of their private sector counterparts were being furloughed or losing their jobs.

But with wages in many sectors rising, and the prime minister using his party conference speech to highlight the prospects for a “high-wage economy”, that argument no longer applies.

“The economic impact and uncertainty of the virus meant we had to take the difficult decision to pause public sector pay,” Sunak said, announcing the end of the freeze. “Along with our Plan for Jobs, this action helped us protect livelihoods at the height of the pandemic. And now, with the economy firmly back on track, it’s right that nurses, teachers and all the other public-sector workers who played their part during the pandemic see their wages rise.”

The Treasury briefed that the minimum wage increase represents a hike of about £1,000 a year for a full-time worker. But calculations by Labour found that those affected by the £1,000-a-year cut in universal credit, the rise in national insurance and the freeze in the income tax personal allowance will still be £807 worse off from April.

They are also likely to feel the pinch from a rise in gas and electricity prices when the energy price cap is reviewed in the same month.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) thinktank agreed that the minimum wage increase would not offset cuts to benefits. Tom Waters, senior research economist, said: “While this boosts earnings for full-time minimum wage workers by over £1,000 a year, those on universal credit will see their disposable income go up by just £250 because their taxes rise and benefit receipt falls as their earnings increase.

“Minimum wage workers are most heavily concentrated around the middle of the household income distribution – not the bottom – often because they live with a higher-earning partner. That means that the minimum wage is a very imperfect tool to offset cuts to benefits, which are much more targeted at the poorest households.

“Rising inflation will also blunt the real-terms value of this minimum wage hike – and of course while prices are rising now, the increase in the minimum wage won’t kick in until April.”

The two government announcements are seen by the Treasury and No 10 as putting the focus back on higher wages over government support. Sunak is also likely to confirm that the government is targeting a rise in the national living wage to more than £10 by the time of the next election, a pledge that would match Labour’s.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the offer was “underwhelming” and would work out at £1,000 a year less than Labour’s plans for a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour for people working full time. “Much of it will be swallowed up by the government’s tax rises, universal credit cuts and failure to get a grip on energy bills,” she said.

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AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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