Antrim and Newtownabbey Council calls for NHS bonus payment

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is seeking a ‘thank-you’ payment of at least £500 from Health Minister Robin Swann for health workers as a mark of gratitude for their “commitment and care” during the Covid pandemic.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 6:21 pm

A motion proposed by Airport DUP Councillor Matthew Magill recognising “the importance of our National Health Service and the heroic contribution of our health and social care workers and care home workers, throughout the pandemic” was passed at a meeting on Monday evening.

An amendment by Sinn Fein Cllr Taylor McGrann to include student health and social care workers was included despite an objection by Alliance Alderman Tom Campbell.

Cllr Magill said: “I am very glad to bring this motion. It has been a very difficult year for everyone, no-one more so than those within our NHS who have been working on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19 especially in critical care, ICU and respiratory wards.

Health Minister Robin Swann on a recent visit to Whiteabbey.

“Earlier in the year, we all showed our gratitude when we came out and clapped our NHS and care workers, That was a great national effort.”

He went on to say that they “deserve something more tangible as a simple thank-you gesture to staff who have given so much”.

Party colleague Antrim Cllr Paul Dunlop commented: “Many of our NHS staff and care home staff during this time have had to make tremendous personal sacrifices, some in terms of leaving their own family homes and who have worked long hours under severe pressure.

“Now it is fitting that we are asking the department to show their gratitude in making this motion.”

He asked for a payment to be extended to staff in private care homes.

However SDLP Cllr Ryan Wilson rounded on the DUP accusing the party of “political opportunism”.

He pointed out that when the DUP was “in a position of power” in 2011, then- Health Minister Edwin Poots issued a consultation on hospital carparking charges and in 2017, the party voted against a motion calling on the government to end a public sector pay cap and voted with the Tories against a pay rise.

Cllr Wilson’s proposed amendment to write to the First and Deputy First Ministers and Finance Minister was defeated by 32 votes to the SDLP’s three.

Alliance Cllr Billy Webb commented: “I want to say how disappointed I am in this, particularly in the season of goodwill. I never thought for one minute that anyone would try to make political capital out of our health service staff.

“In light of the way the amendment was presented, I can’t support it. It is quite ridiculous to turn it round in the way it was attempted.”

Glengormley Ulster Unionist Ald Mark Cosgrove noted: “The Health Minister alone can’t approve expenditure. I would hope all parties in the Executive would support such a proposal.”

Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman confirmed support for the original motion.

He went on to say that when the future of the NHS is “under pressure to be privatised” that the council refuses to accept privatisation.

“I hope to see all those who have drafted this motion continue their support for the health service in the future.”

DUP group leader on council, Ald Phillip Brett, said: “I wish to confirm that we not be accepting an amendment from Cllr Wilson and welcome the support of the other political parties.”

Dismissing Cllr Wilson’s comments as “diatribe”, Ald Brett said he was “thankful that no other party has accepted his lead” on what he described as “nonsense”.

In his amendment, Cllr McGrann asked for student health and social care staff to be included in the request for the payment.

This amendment was seconded by Ballyclare DUP Cllr Jeannie Archibald who said: “They definitely deserve our recognition.”

Ald Cambell said he was against the amendment but offered no explanation and it was carried 34 votes to one.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: Antrim and Newtownabbey’s coronavirus pandemic recovery plan ‘ahead of the game’

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