Twitter users have reacted with outrage after it was revealed that Downing Street had spent more than £2.6m on “vanity project” renovations while offering NHS workers a “miserable” one per cent pay rise.
The costly refurbishment had been ordered for the government’s White House-style press briefings which are set to launch this year.
Following a Freedom of Information (FOI)request, the Cabinet Office revealed a breakdown of costs totalling £2,607,767.67 for the extensive overhaul at No 9 Downing Street.
The government said the renovations were needed to allow for daily broadcasts by various news organisations to take place within the Grade I listed building.
“This spending is in the public interest as the new broadcasting of lobby briefings will increase public accountability and transparency about the work of this government now and in the future,” the Cabinet Office said in its response to the FoI request.
It came as ministers said the one per cent pay rise for health workers was “the most” the government could afford due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Unions have called for a “fair pay deal” for workers amid warnings that the rise is an effective pay cut due to inflation being expected to rise by more than one per cent this year and next.
“We've got NHS staff on the frontline battling to save people's lives, we've got NHS staff delivering the vaccination programme,” Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, told Sky News.
“And a one per cent pay rise is derisory – in fact, if the estimates for inflation come true, it's a pay cut. This government is cutting the pay of nurses who are fighting to save the lives of Covid patients, they should be ashamed.”
The combination of the pay rise announcement and news of the cost of Downing Street’s refurbishments sparked anger on social media on Saturday morning…
Meanwhile, an old clip of health secretary Matt Hancock saying he would not take a pay cut during the pandemic has resurfaced.
In the video from April 2020, Hancock said ministers would not follow the lead of New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern – who said her cabinet would take a 20 per cent cut to show solidarity with people who were struggling financially due to Covid-19.
You can find the clip below: