THE Labour group in Dudley has accused the Conservatives of "dismissing" years of austerity in a row over a letter to be sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

A cross party letter was due to be sent to the government, urging health chiefs to increase the pay of NHS and care workers in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after the government last month pledged to increase pay for 900, 000 public sector workers, but omitted nurses due to a separate pay deal negotiated by the profession in 2018.

The Labour group has now sent their own letter to the government after accusing the Conservatives of "dismissing" years of austerity by refusing to add Labour amendments to the letter on the grounds the points were "too political".

The Labour amendments included references to staff dying in the fight against the virus, claims some care workers are relying on food banks and called for the government to recognise that years of austerity has "resulted in a loss of £100 million in spending power for Dudley over the last decade".

Councillor Shaukat Ali, who proposed that a joint letter be sent to Secretary of State, said: ''I am shocked that the leader rejected all of our proposed amendments. The changes are based on fact and were intended to strengthen our case to the government for the increase. They include reference to the sacrifices that many frontline workers have made, including those who have died from Covid-19.

"We wanted to draw the government's attention to the impact of austerity and the reduction in real terms in the incomes of existing NHS and care staff, some of whom have had to resort to using food banks and that the 2-3 per cent offered to other groups of workers making a similarly valuable contribution would not go far enough."

Cllr Ali, who serves as shadow cabinet member for health and social care, added: "We also wanted to make the case for a fairer funding deal for Dudley, which both parties are signed up to so I am not sure what is political about this or any other of our points. Therefore we have written directly to the government to support our NHS and care staff and we look forward to a response."

Responding to the Labour group's claims, councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, accused the Labour group of "petty political point scoring".

Cllr Patrick Harley said: "The Boris Johnson government has ended and buried austerity, you only have to look at the reaction to Covid to see that.

"It's cheap political points they are trying to make. Their amendments were aggressive, if you want to get people on side you need to work with them rather than rile them up the wrong way.

"If they want to write their own letter then good luck to them but no minister is going to take notice of the opposition council.

"They have missed an opportunity and scored an open goal through petty political point scoring."