Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss on Monday opened a new front in her fight with the ‘establishment’ in Whitehall, promising to cut civil service pay and furloughs and refusing to rule out dissolving the Treasury.
The foreign secretary has portrayed herself as a radical insurgent in her fight to become Britain’s next prime minister, portraying her rival, ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak, as a defender of failing economic orthodoxy.
Truss has promised far-reaching reforms to the civil service, saying it could save nearly £11billion a year on British bureaucracy, with proposals such as lower wages for civil servants working in the worst regions. poorest in the UK.
The Tory leadership favorite has declared a ‘war on waste in Whitehall’, pledging to cut civil service furloughs and lay off 326 diversity officers working in government departments.
Truss, speaking at an election campaign in Exeter, also refused to rule out dissolving the Treasury, which she says is driving Britain into recession by continuing failed policies, including raising taxes to try to reduce the deficit.
She said she was ‘ready to break eggs’ in embracing Whitehall orthodoxy and refused to rule out splitting the Treasury into separate finance and economics ministries.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to give them advance warning if I was going to do that,” she said, before adding, “I think the Treasury needs to change. And that’s been a block on progress.
His comments coincided with ballot papers being sent to more than 150,000 Conservative Party members who will choose outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s successor; a result will be announced on September 5.
Truss’s campaign received a boost when Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who won the backing of 105 Tory MPs early in the leadership race, backed the Foreign Secretary’s candidacy.
Mordaunt offered his endorsement of Truss during a surprise appearance at the Exeter hustings, attended by Tory members. She said the foreign minister was the “hopeful” candidate.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak hopes to use the events to regain momentum in the contest and has injected more passion into his campaign appearances and his allies insist he can still overtake Truss.
Truss’ Whitehall initiative combines a push against what some conservative activists see as a bloated state with an attack on “diversity and inclusion” jobs – another front in the so-called “war on revival”.
Truss wants regional wage commissions to adjust wages to the cost of living where civil servants work. She says it could ultimately save £8.8billion if the idea was extended to all public sector workers, including nurses and teachers.
Allies of Truss said any new pay scale would only apply to new hires. She also wants to move more civil servants out of London and align leave entitlements with those of the private sector.
Truss’s team says the idea of cutting salaries for civil servants working in less prosperous areas would prevent the public sector from “crowding out” the private sector, which struggles to compete with the higher salaries paid by the state.
But Truss will face questions about how cutting public sector wages in areas like the north would lead to the government’s “race up” agenda. There would also be strong opposition from public service unions.
“If Liz Truss is elected, and if she tries to move forward with these proposals, she will face opposition at every step,” the public and commercial services union said, adding: “Public servants are not not a political tool to be used and abused.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior government officials, said Truss “would do well to consider whether a chief executive of a private company would think attacking his staff publicly in this way was a viable strategy. for long-term success”. ”.
Sunak, who has pledged to cut the basic income tax rate from 20% to 16% by the end of the next legislature, hopes party members will support him as a candidate to win an election victory in 2024. But so far, the polls supporting that claim are not overwhelming.
An IpsosUK poll found that among members of the public, Sunak and Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer were neck and neck on 39 points on who would make the most capable prime minister.
On the same question, Starmer beat Truss 41-35 and Johnson 51-31.
But a separate poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found voters, when asked who would make the best prime minister now, gave Starmer a 40-33 lead over Sunak, but gave Truss a lead of 37-36 on Starmer.