Nurse strikes: Majority in Wales in favour of nurses pay rise but unsure how to fund it

A YouGov poll for ITV Cymru Wales revealed what the public think of strikes by nurses and the level of support for them. Credit: PA

The majority of people in Wales want nurses to receive a pay rise - but are stumped at how to pay for it, a new poll suggests.

There is overwhelming support from people in Wales (86%) for raising NHS nurses salaries, according to a YouGov poll for ITV Cymru Wales.

It comes following a long-running dispute over nurses pay within the health service following the suspension of strikes as the Welsh Government made a pay offer which is currently being consulted on.

Just under a third of those polled (29%) said they would be willing to pay more tax in order to give nurses a pay rise.

We asked: In general, would you support or oppose raising NHS nurses' salaries?

Support for nurses pay rise in this poll was "about as high as you get" from polling data, according to Dr Jac Larner, from Cardiff University's Welsh Governance Centre. "That's really strong support," he added.

Plaid Cymru recently called for the Welsh Government to use levers within their devolved powers to increase income tax in order to fund pay increases for nurses.

The party proposed that Welsh rates of income tax should go up by 1p at the basic rate, 2p at the higher rate and 3p for the additional rate to fund an 8% pay rise next year for NHS workers.

Nurses in all but one NHS employer in Wales have voted to go on strike. Credit: PA

Those who said they would support increasing NHS nurses' salaries were asked: In which of the following ways do you think a salary increase for nurses should be funded?

29% - An increase in income tax in Wales21% - A reduction in spending on other public services in Wales5% - A reduction in spending on NHS services in Wales27% - None of these18% - Don't know

Although support for nurses pay rises was strong, nearly half of those polled either didn't know how it should be funded or didn't agree with the options offered in the poll.

Twenty one percent of those polled would prefer other services to be cut in order to fund the pay rise and very few (5%) would support a reduction in spending in NHS services to fund the pay rise.

Dr Larner said: "When we ask how to fund those things, there is a lot of confusion.

"The economy is complicated and it's made more complicated, when, during strike negotiations, there seems to be a period of time where the government will hold out and say 'we can't afford to do this' and then a few weeks later there is a settlement."So therefore it's probably not entirely clear in people's minds how we fund these things in the first place. It's not unsurprising that people aren't entirely sure."

Support for nurses' pay rise in a recent ITV Wales poll was "about as high as you get", according to Dr Jac Larner of Cardiff University Credit: PA

Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru calls the Welsh Government's current offer "a sticking plaster for a gaping wound".

"It will do nothing to address a health service that is understaffed, a care system that is underfunded and a workforce in both that is overworked and undervalued," he added.

Mr Price said: "Plaid Cymru has shown a way forward, and there is clear evidence of support for this way forward. Using the tax powers we have here in Wales, we could generate an extra £317 million to offer NHS workers an 8% pay rise - the first real terms pay increase in over a decade – to help tackle staffing shortages and provide care workers with £12 an hour as a minimum.

"Where Plaid Cymru leads, Labour follows – eventually. We urge them to follow us now, without delay and support our amendment to the Budget. And, if they truly believe in a fair taxation system, they will back us in demanding the powers to set our own tax bands just like Scotland, rather than be ruled by Westminster."

The Welsh Government offered a fresh offer to unions on 3 February which lead to a suspension of all health strikes bar ambulance workers from the Unite union.

Tax rises 'would hurt many already struggling'

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Now is not the right time to raise the basic rate of income tax as it would hurt many who are already struggling with rising inflation and higher energy bills. Increasing the higher and additional rates of income tax in the way Plaid Cymru are proposing would only raise £75m – the bulk of the revenue raised under these proposals would come from basic rate tax payers in Wales.

"In line with our commitment not to take more in Welsh Rates of Income Tax from people for at least as long as the economic impact of Covid-19 lasts, we are proposing no change to any of the current rates for Welsh rates of income tax for 2023-24.

"Our Draft Budget protects public services and the most vulnerable in the face of a perfect storm of financial pressures. We will continue to work to bring together trade unions, employers and government to deliver the best possible outcomes for staff, while continuing to call on the UK Government to use the funding it has to provide a fair pay offer to NHS staff and enable us to do the same in Wales."

YouGov polled a representative sample of 1,081 Welsh voters, aged 16+, between February 3 and February 7 for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University.