Johnson, Javid and Sunak visit Welwyn Garden City's New QEII Hospital
- Credit: Frank Augstein/PA Wire
The government wheeled out its top guns for a visit to Welwyn Garden City's New Queen Elizabeth II Hospital today.
The leading triumvirate of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak met with patients and toured facilities at the site.
They were there to discuss what measures the government was implementing to tackle the Covid backlogs and reform the adult social care system - the Health and Social Care Levy.
Over the next three years, a record £39 billion will be invested in the health and social care system to ensure it has the long-term resource it needs to provide world-class care, while delivering the biggest catch up programme in the NHS’ history.
Speaking directly to the three politicians, the WHT was given an opportunity to grill them on current policy.
We asked why ordinary people were being made to pay more for hospitals rather than taxing rich people and companies, and highlighted how a nurse in Welwyn Garden City is on a starting salary of £26K, which means they will need 12 and a half times their income to buy a small flat in the town, so how were they encouraging people to come and work for the NHS here?
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Those people you talk about on ordinary incomes are going to pay less tax this year than they did last year because of the measures we introduced in the Spring Statement by making sure that the first £12,500 you earn you don't pay a single penny of National Insurance or Income Tax on.
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"That tax cut - which is worth £6bn a year which will be introduced in just a couple of months - will mean that all those people that you're rightly asking about on ordinary incomes will pay less tax, even including the new Health and Social Care Levy. More generally the country's number one priority is the NHS and what we want to make sure is that it has the significant resources it needs to tackle the backlog."
The PM responded: "We've increased nurses' pay and starting salaries, and that's part of what we're dealing with with our investment in the NHS - making sure we look after our staff and also recruiting 50,000 more nurses.
"But to help them afford a place to live in somewhere like Welwyn Hatfield you've got to have supply, you've got to make sure you're building enough affordable homes, and you can do that on brownfield sites in Hertfordshire, and that's what we're doing.
"In 2021 we had more new builds start in any year for a long, long time, and what we also had was more first time buyers. That's a great change because too many young people haven't been able to afford a place to live, so to help a nurse is to make sure the mortgage is attractive. If you have a 95 per cent mortgage then it can be much more affordable. The objective is to find the properties that are nearer to their price range."
The PM was also asked about his comments in September suggesting there should not be more building on green field sites, which was welcomed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council at the time, only for a government inspector to argue over the removal of developments from the Local Plan.
Boris Johnson added: "The thing you've got to do is put in the infrastructure to make a development viable. With the right investment, for example in transport, you can get away with sites that might not otherwise be viable, and that's what we're doing."