A Tory MP who told nurses dependent on foodbanks to “budget better” has been slammed for being “out of touch”. The comment was made on the day thousands walked out in a dispute over pay and patient safety.
Simon Clarke, who is the Tory MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, made the controversial remark when speaking to BBC Radio Tees. The former levelling up secretary said: “If you are using foodbanks and your average salary is £35,000 a year then something is wrong with your budgeting because £35,000 is not a salary on which you want to be relying on foodbanks.
“I think we just need to be clear on this. This debate has got out of hand, the average nurse’s salary is £35,000 and senior nurses earn up to about £47,000."
The inflammatory comments have sparked fury among the general public, as well as from fellow politicians. Labour MP for Middlesborough, Andy Macdonald, slammed the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for being “out of touch.”
Mr Macdonald said: “He needs to get down to the picket line and speak to nurses directly. There are facilities in James Cook Hospital to help nurses with food stuffs, and other support.
“These Tory MPs are totally detached from reality, I think people understand now how distant they are from ordinary people’s lives. They have no empathy and there is a huge gap now between their perception of the world, and the people who do the work."
A representative of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who are seeing around 100,000 nurses take industrial action has criticised Simon Clarke for his “heartless” comments. Pat Cullen, who is its general secretary, said: “To criticise anybody using a foodbank is disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch.
“I have toured the length and breadth of this country and met nursing staff from every corner of the nation, and their fear and fright about not being able to meet their bills is palpable. Sky-high inflation means some nursing staff are living on a financial knife-edge and even their own employer, NHS trusts across the country, are being forced to open food banks to feed their staff.
Ms Cullen continued: “This is not their fault – every nurse out there spends their professional and personal lives looking at how they can make savings. How they can treat more patients with less staff, how they can make their ever-decreasing budget stretch further.
“When nurses are having to pay hundreds of pounds a month just to get to work, can’t afford to put food on the table, and are forced to cut back on shifts because they can’t afford ever-increasing childcare costs, something is seriously wrong."