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BUDGET REACTION: 'BOOST TO PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS'

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Chancellor Gordon Brown unveiled a Budget that has been welcomed by Unison as a confidence-booster. ...
Chancellor Gordon Brown unveiled a Budget that has been welcomed by Unison as a confidence-booster.

In his seventh Budget so far Brown spoke of delivering economic strength and social justice.

He announced a new 'baby-bond' so that £250 will be given to each baby born in the UK with the sum rising to £500 for babies of poor parents. The idea is for parents and grandparents to top up this sum so that the child will be able to access it when they are 18.

Brown also announced the abolishment of the so-called 'hotel charges' pensioners have had to pay if they spend more than six weeks in hospital. The money was deducted for meals and accommodation costs.

Pensioners over 80 will also benefit from pension credit from October as they will receive an extra £100 winter fuel allowance, to top up the current £200 allowance.

Dave Prentis, general secretary for Unison, said:

'We are delighted the chancellor has stuck to his guns and put public services first in this Budget. It will boost confidence in the government's ability to deliver world class services and boost morale among members. He has delivered the stability which our public services need.

'Poverty-busting measures in the Budget are welcome, particularly funds to tackle world poverty and to provide cheap drugs to the developing world. And, at home, the abolition of pension reductions for stays in hospitals which is long overdue and the extra £100 for the over 80s is an award to long service and a lifetime of contribution.'

Brown also spoke of encouraging locally-led regional policies but Unison is wary that this will lead to regional divides.

Mr Prentis added:

'While improved regional statistics are welcome to aid the case for pay supplements in high cost areas, we would not be happy with a move towards regional pay and will be watching developments closely. Extra pay in one part of the country cannot be at the expense of others.

'National pay bargaining is a transparent and fair system which is efficient and aids movement around the country. Employers already have the flexibility to adjust to local conditions. We would hope that this is not the intention, and would be opposed to any suggestion that it apply to the statutory national minimum wage.'

Key Budget changes:

* £3bn additional funds to the UK military

* Brown is setting aside £240m for humanitarian aid to Iraq

* increase of 25,000 more doctors, 88,000 more nurses by 2008

* lone job-seeking parents to get an extra £20 a week to help with their search

* every child born from today will get a child-bond of between £250 and £500

* hospital charges for pensioners have been abolished

* pensioners over 80 will receive an extra £100 winter fuel payment

* all single pensioners with income below £139 a week and all couples below £203 a week will be eligible for the new pension credit

On regional pay, Mr Prentis said:

'National pay bargaining is a transparent and fair system which is efficient and aids movement around thecountry. Employers already have the flexibility to adjust to local conditions. We would hope that this is not the intention, and would be opposed to any suggestion that it apply to the statutory national minimum wage.'

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