The Foreign Secretary, who hopes to become the next Prime Minister, previously promised a “war on Whitehall waste”.
Liz Truss has abandoned her leadership pledge to cut public sector wages for workers outside south-east England just 12 hours after she announced the plan.
At a leadership event in Exeter, the Foreign Secretary announced she would end national wage agreements and instead pay public sector workers differently depending on the region in which they work.
She said the move would save £8.8bn in taxpayers’ money and create a “leaner, more efficient and more focused Whitehall”.
But the South West Norfolk MP faced a major backlash from fellow Tories, many of whom argued it would mean lower wages for millions of workers outside London – and warned nurses, police officers and teachers would become poorer.
Ms Truss’s team have now said that the proposal will not be pursued, commenting that there has been “a willful misrepresentation of our campaign”.
The team previously stated: “The current wage levels in the public sector will absolutely be maintained.
“Anything that suggests otherwise is just wrong.”
What did Liz Truss say about the policy change?
Speaking to the BBC in Dorset, Ms Truss said: “I am afraid my policy on this has been misrepresented. It was never my intention to change the working conditions of teachers and nurses.
“But what I want to make clear is that I will not go ahead with the regional pay bodies, it is no longer my policy.
“I’m being absolutely honest, I’m concerned that people have been concerned, unnecessarily concerned about my policies and that is why I say clearly that regional pay bodies will not go ahead.”
Who criticized Ms. Truss?
Ben Houchen, a Conservative mayor who has announced his support for Ms Truss’ rival Rishi Sunak, said he was “absolutely speechless” by the proposals.
He argued that the policy would “undo” progress in places like his local Teesside and told the BBC it would have been “disastrous” in a general election.
Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay Steve Double, who is also an ally of Mr Sunak, added it would be “hugely damaging to Cornish public services”.
Unions, meanwhile, have urged Ms Truss to anticipate “every step of the way” and Labor said the plan was “a fantasy recipe for levelling”.
Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner commented: “It will reduce Northerners’ wages and widen the gap that already exists.”
A source from Mr Sunak’s campaign team criticized the foreign minister’s about-face, noting: “It was not a mistake.
“Liz wanted this in 2018 [when she was a senior minister for the Treasury].”
Who defended Ms. Truss?
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, backed Ms Truss’ plans.
He explained: “Anyone who currently works in the public sector will keep their previous conditions, but new people will get the usual market rate of their place of residence – and that rightly protects taxpayers’ money.”
He added: “When the government is the biggest payer, it crowds out private sector investment.”
What other plans has Ms. Truss announced?
The Foreign Secretary proposed cutting jobs to improve inclusion and diversity in the public sector, which her team estimates could save £12million a year.
She also said she would save £137m by banning union officials from being given paid time off to focus on union work.
Another change Ms Truss would make would be to reduce the average annual holiday in public service from 27 to 25 days.
The Tory leadership candidate claimed at the Hustings event that these changes, combined with the now abolished end to national pay deals for civil servants, would save taxpayers £11billion.
She also said it would help combat leftist “groupthink” within the civil service.
At the same event, Mr. Sunak criticized Ms. Truss’ business plans.
The former chancellor said: “I want to reform the corporate tax system.
“Liz Truss’ corporate tax policy is precisely the failed Treasury Department orthodoxy of the last 10 years that hasn’t worked. I want to change it and make the economy grow.”
The two candidates will continue to face off in leadership battle events over the coming weeks before the UK’s new Prime Minister is announced on September 5.