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Truss abandons £8.8bn policy to slash public sector pay following massive backlash

02 Aug 2022 5 minute read
Liz Truss. Photo Joe Giddens PA Images

The Tory leadership frontrunner scrapped the plan to pay workers in cheaper regions less than their counterparts in London and the South East  a little over 12 hours after making the major announcement.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Secretary’s campaign claimed there had been “wilful misrepresentation” of the proposal amid growing blue-on-blue attacks, but made clear they would be dropping it and instead maintaining current levels of pay.

Conservative Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, who is backing Rishi Sunak, had said he had been left “actually speechless” by Ms Truss’s pitch to party members choosing the next prime minister.

Ms Truss, widely seen as the frontrunner to take over in No 10, had announced the move on Monday night as part of a “war on Whitehall waste” to make savings from the Civil Service.

But the Sunak campaign argued that the plan would slash the pay of nearly six million public sector workers, with nurses, police and armed forces members facing £1,500 of cuts.

Misrepresentation

Announcing the U-turn, Ms Truss’s spokeswoman said: “Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign.

“Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained.

“Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.

“Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.”

Mr Sunak’s camp argued that the move was no mistake, arguing that Ms Truss had argued for the move when she was chief secretary to the Treasury in 2018.

“The lady is for turning,” a source said, mocking the Cabinet minister over comparisons she receives with former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

It was unclear how the Truss camp believed the policy had been misrepresented, with them clearly having stated that up to £8.8 billion could be saved by extending the move for all public sector workers.

Time bomb

Earlier in the day, Mr Houchen had described the plan as a “ticking time bomb set by Team Truss that will explode ahead of the next general election”.

Institute for Government programme director Alex Thomas argued that the “complicated and controversial” move would mean nurses and teachers being paid less or receiving slower pay rises than others.

“This is not war on Whitehall, it’s more like war on Workington,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Steve Double, the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said the “terrible idea” would be “hugely damaging to public services in Cornwall, where we already struggle to recruit NHS staff”.

“The billions saved would be coming straight out of rural economies. This is levelling down not up,” he said as he vowed to vote for Mr Sunak.

North West Durham MP Richard Holden, another supporter of the former chancellor, said Ms Truss’s policy would “kill levelling up”.

Simon Hoare, the Sunak backer who chairs the Commons Northern Ireland Committee, said it is a “totally bad initiative” that would result in “levelling down”.

Unions

Unions representing civil servants had also reacted furiously to the plan.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “As the Government faces the huge challenges posed by a new war on mainland Europe and recovering from Covid backlogs, what we need from a prime minister is solutions for the 21st century, not recycled failed policies and tired rhetoric from the 1980s.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “If Liz Truss is elected, and if she tries to go ahead with these proposals, she’ll face opposition every step of the way.

“Civil servants are not a political tool to be used and abused for one person’s ambition – they are the hard-working people who keep the country running, day in, day out, and they deserve respect.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, said: “Liz Truss has spent the last few weeks trashing the record of her own Government. Judging by this vacuous attempt to garner headlines friendly to her selectorate, she plans more of the same economically illiterate and insulting ideological nonsense that this Government has been churning out in recent years.”

The plan was contained in Ms Truss’s policy to save £11 billion by cutting Civil Service time off, scrapping jobs aimed at increasing inclusion and diversity in the public sector, and by ending national pay deals.

The last point would mean taking into account the regional cost of living when paying public sector workers.

Her campaign had argued it could save up to £8.8 billion annually if it was adopted for all public sector workers in the long term.

Labour said it would slash £7.1 billion from economies in the North of England, the Midlands and Yorkshire.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “If Liz Truss is handed the keys to Number 10, workers outside the M25 will see their pay levelled down as she kicks out the ladder.”


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Arwyn
Arwyn
13 days ago

Pathetic and shambolic. Ideologically driven right wing drivel of the sort that Wales has rejected at the ballot box since 1856. Iesu mowr, get Wales out of the UK!

Llyn
Llyn
13 days ago

So much for Liz Truss being a conviction politician.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago

She is the chaff that floats on the breeze, as are all members of this ‘government’ of puppets…

DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
13 days ago

Did not take long for HISSING LIZard Truss to U turn opened her gob before she encaged her tiny wee brain
carry on LIZard your doing a grand job for our Independence

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

Liz Truss’s backtracking regarding public sector region pay which would have meant workers in Wales being paid less even though they did the same job as their SE English counterparts not only unjust she didn’t take into consideration workers who live outside of London but commute in, which there are many . Anyway, Truss might have scrapped her would-be policy after a Tory backlash, but a divide still exists where we see England , in particular London and the SE region, receive the lionshare of infrastructure spend where hundreds upon hundreds of billions in England id spent using the lame… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by Y Cymro
One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
13 days ago

That didn’t take long

Geraint
Geraint
13 days ago

Can see why her handlers would not allow her to be interviewed by Andrew Neil.

Paul
Paul
13 days ago

There was a comment from Mark Harper MP (Conservative) who said  
“… stop “blaming journalists – reporting what a press release says isn’t ‘wilful misrepresentation’”.

It is very Trumpian of Truss to announce a policy that turns out to be damaging then claims she never said it. And that people are lying about her.

Carol Loughlin
Carol Loughlin
13 days ago

As public sector workers would MPs with constituencies outside London have seen a similar cut to their pay and pensions?

Mick Tems
Mick Tems
13 days ago

Never, never trust Truss – godawful Thatcher puppet. Her mindless pratfalls just fill me with disgust and derision.

I Humphrys
I Humphrys
13 days ago

In Cymru, we have hard times ahead, but England’s politicians are not the ones to deal with them.

Marc
Marc
13 days ago

The lady is definitely for turning

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
13 days ago

Keep it up Truss! You’re doing a fine job of breaking up the Union – even before you are put in power by the few ! lol !

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
12 days ago

It always struck me as a strange idea from a person that I hear the Civil Servant insiders have nick-named ‘Lavish Liz’ for her willingness to spend public funds for her own enjoyment.

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