Liz Truss has been forced to reverse plans to cut civil servant salaries outside London after a furious protest from Conservative MPs and the mayor of Conservative Tees Valley.
A spokesperson for her leadership campaign said there had been a “deliberate misrepresentation of our campaign”, but confirmed she was waiving plans for regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector employees.
Members of the Red Wall, including Jacob Young and Richard Holden, raised the alarm over the policy announced overnight, as did former minister Simon Hart, who said it would amount to cuts of nearly £3,000 for workers in Wales.
Her opponent Rishi Sunak’s campaign said the £8.8bn in wage cuts outside London, touted in a release by Truss on Monday night, could only be made with cuts across the public sector, including teachers, nurses and the armed forces. , with an estimate of an average of around £1,500 each for workers outside South East England.
By midday on Tuesday, Truss’ campaign admitted it would scrap the plan and said it had no intention of cutting wages.
“Current wage levels in the public sector will absolutely be maintained,” said a Truss spokesperson. “Anything that suggests otherwise is simply wrong.
“Our hard-working frontline workers are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector employees.”
Truss’s first major blunder, who is the favorite to win the race, delighted some MPs who supported Sunak – with one calling it her ‘tax moment for dementia’, referring to the time when former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to social care policy.
After the policy was announced overnight, Ben Houchen, the mayor of the Tees Valley and a supporter of Rishi Sunak, said this figure could not be reached without pay cuts outside London leading to higher levels.
“Speechless, actually,” he tweeted. “You just can’t do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5 million people, including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London. So much that we’ve worked for in places like Teesside would be undone.”
Holden, the MP for North West Durham, said Truss should “cut the policy”, saying the only way to save would be pay cuts for doctors, nurses and police officers. Chris Clarkson, the MP for Heywood and Middleton, said: “I’m not sure that a pledge to cut people’s wages based on where they live will survive the first contact with focus groups, let alone the reality.”
Young, the MP for Redcar, tweeted: “Doubt this is the vision of ‘hope’ that Penny Mordaunt spoke of yesterday… Hope for Northerners is being cut in salaries? [Truss] urgently needs to eradicate this policy.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously denied Truss’ plans to cut wages for public sector workers outside the capital by introducing regional wage boards, but then declined to say how billions of promised savings could be realized.
Truss’s original policy statement said it “could be approved in the long term for all public sector workers”.
Sunak’s campaign said that to achieve the £8.8 billion savings, civil servant salaries would have to be cut in half. The policy is believed to be based on a report by the Taxpayers’ Alliance that looked at the entire public sector workforce without exception.
Signs that the policy was in trouble began Tuesday morning when Rees-Mogg, a Truss supporter and the minister responsible for the efficiency of the civil service, said it “wasn’t the plan at this point” to raise wages for the wider public. public sector reduction. savings of £8.8 billion promised by Truss. “The discussion at the moment is about civil servants,” he said.
In the original release, which proposed regional pay boards, Truss said she would “align the cost of living with where civil servants actually work” and that this would save up to £8.8 billion.
Experts have said that this figure is not achievable for officials alone. Alex Thomas, program director at the Institute for Government think tank, said the total annual civil servant salary was around £9 billion.
Labor said the original plan would have meant £7.1bn for local economies in Yorkshire, the North and the Midlands. Angela Rayner, deputy Labor leader, said: “Liz Truss is a liability that has hung around this Tory cabinet for nearly a decade, during which the Tories have fueled a cost of living crisis.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “Turning around a multi-billion pound policy five weeks before even taking office should be a new record. We cannot let Liz Truss run the country with the same incompetence as she runs her leadership campaign. The British people must have their say in general elections.”