‘Fantasy Recipe for Levelling Down’: Truss Slammed Over Her Plan to Cut Civil Service Salaries
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak are the two final candidates in the election race for the post of UK prime minister and head of the Conservative Party, following Boris Johnson's resignation on July 7. The winner of the contest is expected to be known on September 5.
The Labour Party and the UK's trade unions have hit out at UK Foreign Secretary
Liz Truss’ plan to slash civil service salaries by up to £11 billion a year in what she described as a “war on Whitehall waste,” if she becomes prime minister.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner told reporters on Monday “this wannabe prime minister is stuck in the past, fighting old battles, and promising a race to the bottom on public sector workers' pay and rights.”
Rayner claimed that Truss was “declaring war on herself with her fantasy recipe for levelling down,” accusing the Conservative government of overseeing “epic waste”, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Labour deputy leader also argued that the Tory leadership frontrunner’s “’tailored’ pay plans would level down the pay of northerners, worsening the divide which already exists”, adding, “this out-of-touch government's commitment to levelling up is dead.”
“Now Liz Truss is pledging yet more cuts, which will only worsen the backlogs we already have in courts, airports and GPs, leaving people waiting for passports, driving licenses, and vital appointments,” she asserted.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, for his part, accused Truss of recycling “failed policies and tired rhetoric from the 1980s.”
He referred to Truss’s suggestion that civil servants’ salaries outside London can distort the labor market if they are higher than the going rate locally. Penman drew parallels to the approach of the UK shipping company P&O Ferries, which was previously slammed for driving down staff pay and conditions.
“Instead of taking a page out of the P&O Ferries playbook, Liz Truss should be focused on ensuring that the civil service has the right people with the right skills to deliver high-quality public services and tackle the challenges the government faces right now, including the recovery from COVID backlogs and the new war in mainland Europe,” the FDA union’s general secretary added.
Mark Serwotka, head of the PCS civil service union, in turn said that if 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,” he underlined.
Truss Unveils Plan to Slash Civil Service Salaries
This came after Truss revealed a plan to cut pay for public sector workers, including teachers and nurses, in a bid to save £11 billion ($13.4 billion), if she becomes UK prime minister.
Under the blueprint, the bulk of the savings - about £8.8 billion ($10.7 billion) - would come from paying workers living in cheaper areas of the country less than counterparts in places like London and the South East where the cost of living is higher.
The plan also stipulates saving £2 billion ($2.4 billion) by reducing civil servants’ annual holiday allowance by two days. Additionally, Truss pledged that she would ban civil service trades union representatives from using taxpayer-funded “facility time” to plan strike action, if she won the Tory leadership race.
She vowed that as British prime minister, she would “run a leaner, more efficient, more focused Whitehall that prioritizes the things that really matter to people and is laser-focused on frontline services.”
“There is too much bureaucracy and stale groupthink in Whitehall. If I make it into Downing Street, I will put an end to that and run a government that focuses relentlessly on delivering for the British public and offers value to hard-working taxpayers,” Truss added.
The Times has reported that a recent private poll suggests the foreign secretary is just five percentage points ahead of former Chancellor Rishi Sunak
in a race to succeed Boris Johnson.
According to the survey, 48% percent of respondents support Truss, compared to 43% backing the ex-chancellor, with 9 percent of those questioned undecided.
The poll is in contrast to the last YouGov survey, conducted at the end of the knockout stages last month, which suggested that Truss had a 24-point lead over Sunak.