Former levelling up secretary and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke MP has told nurses who use “foodbanks” that they need to “budget better and take responsibility.”
Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland said as they earn an average of £35,000 per year, they should not be using foodbanks.
Clarke’s remarks have sparked fury amongst nurses, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Pat Cullen and Labour.
The Oxford educated Tory MP told BBC Radio Tees, “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.
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“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.”
Cullen blasted the Tory MPs remarks and she 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.
“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.”
She added, “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.”
Labour MP Andy Macdonald, who represents Middlesbrough 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.”