Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss has U-turned on plans to pay public sector workers differently in accordance with living costs in their area.
Truss has polled well among the Conservative party membership and looks to be the frontrunner in the run-off to succeed outgoing PM, Boris Johnson, ahead of her leadership rival Rishi Sunak.
However, her public sector pay policy was met with fierce opposition by opposition parties and her fellow Tories, prompting a rethink.
One of the issues raised against the policy was a concern that it could lead to millions of public sector workers outside of London and the southeast receiving lower wages.
Truss had suggested that her plan - which would involve regional pay boards setting salaries for each area according to living costs there - could have saved as much as £8.8 billion, but it will now not be taken forward.
The move formed part of Truss’ ambition to create a “leaner, more efficient, more focused Whitehall”, and her campaign said that it would help fuel growth in areas where public sector salaries were outcompeting the private sector.
Arguing that her policy had been “misrepresented” and “unnecessarily worried” the public, Truss said: “I never had any intention of changing the terms and conditions of teachers and nurses. But what I want to be clear about it that I will not be going ahead with the regional pay boards.”
A campaign spokesperson for Sunak said that Truss’ U-turn was indicative of a “lack of serious judgement” from their rival candidate and showed a lack of reliability in Truss in a general election situation.
They said: “It demonstrates a lack of serious judgment by setting out plans that would see pay dramatically cut for police, nurses and our armed forces in Cardiff and Canterbury, Teesside and Taunton during a cost-of-living crisis.
“It also shows a worrying lack of grip of detail in what is already a woolly economic plan. If this was in a general election, it would have been a potentially fatal own goal for the Conservatives.”
Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said that the move had revealed Liz Truss’ priority as being to “slash the pay packets of working people”. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey joked that “U-turning on a multi-billion-pound policy five weeks before even taking office must be a new record,” after Truss scrapped the plan within 12 hours of announcing it.