Liz Truss has refused a Conservative Party member’s request for her to apologise for proposing to link public sector pay to local living costs – reiterating that the policy was “misrepresented”.
On Monday night, the foreign secretary and Tory leadership frontrunner said she would save £8.8bn by introducing regional pay boards instead of national ones to set salaries for civil servants, reflecting where they lived.
It would have meant paying government employees in poorer parts of the country less than their counterparts in more affluent areas, such as the South East and London, and experts warned to reach the sum the plan needed to include the likes of teachers, nurses and police officers.
After the policy sparked outrage from a number of Conservatives, on Tuesday lunchtime Ms Truss’ team U-turned on the plans and released a statement insisting “current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained”.
Conservative Party member Tom from Gateshead, participating in Sky News’ The Battle for Number 10, asked Ms Truss to apologise for initially planning to introduce a policy which was “actually quite offensive”.
Ms Truss refused to do this, repeating that the media had “misrepresented” the proposal and that she is “not going ahead with this policy because of the concerns that have been expressed”.
Asked by presenter Kay Burley how she reached the £8.8bn figure if the policy was “misinterpreted”, the foreign secretary admitted: “I don’t have the details.”
She added: “I do accept that the way the policy has been interpreted to cover those people was not right. And that’s why I took an immediate decision not to go ahead with it.”
Elsewhere in the Sky News special leadership programme, Ms Truss seemingly carried out another U-turn by rowing back on her previous belief that more homes should be built on greenbelt land to boost the economy.
“I’ve changed my view on that,” Ms Truss said when probed on the matter, adding: “What I’ve seen is the way these top down targets have resulted in having the opposite effect of getting the homes built.
“And I’m now of the view that what we need to do is have incentives to get local councils to set up investment zones and do things differently, because the current system isn’t working.”
Other key points during each candidates’ 45-minute long grilling included:
• Ms Truss later told the audience: “There are no skeletons in my closet. I think everything I’ve ever said and done is known about very publicly.”
• The foreign secretary said “it would be wrong for us to give away any territory on behalf of the Ukrainians”.
• Ms Truss said she would not visit Taiwan if she becomes prime minister
• Ms Truss said she would support doctors and nurses by “removing some of the central diktats” and by “having fewer layers of management”.
• When told by an audience member that her policies are “not sound economics”, Ms Truss said “trying to balance the books prematurely is actually counterproductive”.