Liz Truss rapidly U-turns on £9bn public sector pay cut after rivals tear plans to shreds

2 August 2022, 12:24 | Updated: 2 August 2022, 12:51

Liz Truss reversed her position on public sector pay
Liz Truss reversed her position on public sector pay. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

Liz Truss has rapidly U-turned on her pledge to cut public sector pay by £9bn after the idea was savaged by Rishi Sunak and Labour.

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The foreign secretary had proposed to save money on Government employees by introducing regional pay that could see staff who live in cheaper places than London and the South East paid less.

Her Tory leadership rival Rishi Sunak and Labour savaged it, claiming it would slash pay for nurses, police and military personnel.

A Truss campaign 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.

Liz Truss pulled a rapid U-turn on Tuesday
Liz Truss pulled a rapid U-turn on Tuesday. Picture: Getty

"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."

The statement arrived just before Tuesday lunchtime, after she revealed her "war on Whitehall waste" on Monday.

That plan included ending national pay deals, cutting civil service time off and scrapping jobs focused on increasing inclusion and diversity in the public sector - with the intention of saving some £11bn. Some £8.8bn of that would come from regional pay changes, it was said.

Mr Sunak's campaign, which is trying to catch up in the Tory membership polls, said Ms Truss's plan would have cut pay for six million public sector workers, including nurses, police and soldiers, to the tune of £1,500.

Ben Houchen, the Tory Tees Valley mayor who supports Mr Sunak, said he was "actually speechless" and branded the move a "ticking time bomb" that would explode before the next election.

Read more: Truss' war on civil service: Tory leadership hopeful pledges to cut pay and holiday if she becomes PM

Steve Double, the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said pay cuts could be devastating in Cornwall, where NHS recruitment is already tough, and called it "levelling down".

Labour claimed the move would see a £7.1 billion hit to the economies in Yorkshire, the North and the Midlands.

Read more: Rees-Mogg admits he 'got it wrong' when he said Brexit wouldn’t cause huge queues at Dover

The party's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "Liz Truss is utterly out of touch with the British public. Her fantasy plan would hammer the north and slash the pay of nurses, teachers, and police officers facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation.

"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.

"The Conservatives' commitment to levelling up is dead on arrival with Lightweight Liz as Prime Minister."