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Don't blame it on the nurses!

George Osborne's scapegoating public sector workers for the excesses of his friends in the City is o

As the eldest son and heir of 17th baronet, Sir Peter Osborne, George Osborne has clearly had a very privileged upbringing.

Clearly out of touch with reality, he tried to deflect attention away from his friends in the City, the bankers and greedy speculators who have dragged this country into the financial crisis, by pounding public sector workers.

It was interesting to see the subsequent back-tracking as this outburst backfired on the Tory Party. However, it gives us a clear insight into Tory thinking and what would be in store should they succeed at the next general election.

His remark that “the age of excess is over” will outrage nurses, paramedics, occupational therapists, midwives, hospital cleaners and cooks – all my members working in the NHS, who have certainly never had an age of excess to get over.

They do not need to be told by the Tories that “we need an age of restraint and responsibility’ it goes with their jobs. Just because they signed up to a three year pay deal, in good faith, it does not make them part of the “debt problem”.

In fact many low paid health workers face long-term debt problems of their own. Last year NHS staff accepted a three-year pay deal, which is worth 2.54 per cent from 1 April this year.

Hardly excessive, it won’t cover the extra cost of everyday essentials such as food, fuel, transport gas and electricity.

A nurse on £22,000 a year or a hospital porter on £14,000 might be forgiven for wondering how this “age of excess” passed them by.

The deal covers more than one million health workers and was agreed through the NHS pay review body. Only recently MPs were awarded 2.33 per cent by their review body, which makes the two awards very similar. This suggests that the deal is not out of kilter with prevailing economic conditions.

The Tories cannot lay the blame for the economic crisis at the door of public sector workers, with or without three-year pay deals.

Local Government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have just been offered 0.5 per cent - just 3p an hour for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Instead of piling pressure on public sector workers, the Tories would do well to remember the vital role that local services play during an economic downturn.

In times of recession governments have traditionally turned to public services as their first line of defence. Our government is right to look at preserving jobs and boosting the economy by bringing forward a planned programme of public works – building roads, schools and hospitals.

George Osborne’s plans to make cuts in public spending take the “bulk of the strain” in order to balance the fiscal books is unfair and unworkable.

Public services are essential to the health and wellbeing of people and the quality and stability of local communities.

We are already seeing cuts across the public sector as a result of the recession but Tory plans go much further and would have a devastating impact. They would widen the gap between the rich and poor and create more long-term social instability for all.

Public sector workers were never invited to party on excess- it’s time the Tories told their friends in the City - their party is over.

Dave Prentis is General Secretary of UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union with 1.3m members