Liz Truss labels Keir Starmer a ‘plastic patriot’
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The row exploded after Ms Truss launched her latest policy document promising to cut £11 billion of Whitehall waste including £8.8 billion saved from salaries. Mr Sunak’s campaign claimed that to achieve this Ms Truss would need to take £1,500 off around 5.7 million public sector workers outside London. Previously the two had already clashed on tax plans with Ms Truss trashing Mr Sunak’s record as Chancellor with the highest level of taxation in 70 years, and Mr Sunak describing his rival’s plans as “immoral”.
But a spokeswoman for Liz Truss hit back accusing Mr Sunak of “wilful misrepresentation” in a leadership fight which has already got dirty.
She 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.”
The statement though was met with incredulity from the Sunak team who claimed that Ms Truss had made a “screeching U-turn”.
A source from Team Sunak mocked Ms Truss’ attempts to appear like a modern Margaret Thatcher by throwing back one of the Iron Lady’s famous lines at her.
The source said: “This wasn’t a mistake, Liz wanted this in 2018 as CST. The lady is for turning.”
Teesside Mayor Ben Houchen, a backer of Mr Sunak’s, described it as “a screeching U-turn”.
The row had broken out over calculations made by Mr Sunak’s team on the savings Ms Truss had claimed to make.
According to a briefing from the Sunak team: “The entire civil service pay bill is £16.5 billion. You’d have to more than halve civil service salaries to save £8.8 billion.
“The calculation the Liz campaign has done to get to £8.8 billion is based on a report that looked across the whole public sector workforce and therefore includes cutting the pay of nurses, police officers and the armed forces – the report explicitly says ‘all public sector workers’ and lists no exceptions.”
They based their figures on figures according to the Cabinet Office the mean civil service salary was £34,470 as at 31 March 2022 and there were 478,090 full-time equivalent basis civil servants – which means the total civil service wage bill is £16.5 billion.
The briefing continued: “The Truss campaign’s own notes to editors states that her plans ‘could save up to £8.8 billion per year – this is the potential savings if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers’.”
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Based on this they claimed that millions of nurses, police officers and members of the armed forces would have their pay cut by £1,500 a year. In total more than 5 .7 million public sector workers would see their pay being cut by an average of £1,500 a year under these plans.
They also alleged that Ms Truss had picked up an idea promoted in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government but had been rejected.
A Sunak source added: “This plan is a gift to the Labour Party and Keir Starmer. Her plan would punish hard working nurses, police officers and soldiers across the country, including in the Red Wall just before a General Election.”
Mr Houchen also led the attacks in broadcast interviews on the plans to save the public money.
He said: “Actually speechless.
“There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.7 million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London.”
“Liz Truss’s campaign is explicit that their savings target is only possible ‘if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers’.”
“This is a ticking time bomb set by team Truss that will explode ahead of the next general election.”
The row has come on the day when another mayor – Andy Street for the West Midlands, backed Ms Truss’ vision for the country.
According to the Sunak figures, the West Midlands would be the second hardest hit for public sector workers losing pay with 651,018.
Top would be the North West with 802,111 with Scotland in third with 636,342.
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