Brandon Lewis is supporting Liz Truss in the leadership contest. (Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC via PA Media)
Plans to pay public sector workers in the poorest parts of the country “was not something that was ever proposed” by Liz Truss, insisted one of her main supporters.
Brandon Lewis’ comments appeared to directly contradict a press release released by the Foreign Secretary’s leadership campaign just two days ago.
Truss was forced to make a strident about-face yesterday after the policy, which was projected to save the public purse £8.8bn, was attacked by senior Tories.
It was part of an overall package designed to save £11bn of ‘Whitehall rubbish’.
The press release read: “By introducing regional councils, pay for civil servants can be adjusted according to the actual areas where civil servants work, saving billions.
“It will also prevent the public sector from crowding out the private sector in places where private companies simply cannot compete on public sector wages.”
The statement added: “This could save up to £8.8 billion a year. This is the potential savings if the system is adopted for all public sector workers in the long term.”
Asked about the policy on Radio Four’s Today show, Lewis said: “The word there that is important is the word ‘if’ – this was not something that was proposed and Liz made it clear yesterday that this is not a policy being taken. forward.”
He added: “The reality is that what Liz was describing as a package yesterday was how you handle Whitehall trash.
“Liz herself made it clear yesterday that she is not taking this policy forward.”
On Sky News later, Lewis repeated his denial that what was in the press release was always a policy proposal.
He said: “What was described was what you could save if you did it in a general way – that was never the case. This was about what you could do with new people entering the public service. But she has made it clear that we are not going to do that.”
Announcing her U-turn yesterday, Truss said, “I never intended to change the terms and conditions of teachers and nurses,” she said.
“But what I want to make clear is that I’m not going to go ahead with regional payment panels. This is no longer my policy.”
There was better news for Truss, however, in a new YouGov poll, which showed she increased her lead over Rishi Sunak to 34 points, up 10 points from a week ago.
A spokesperson for the Truss campaign said: “We have great momentum and Liz’s message of economic growth, low taxes and her ability to deliver from day one is resonating with members.
“We are not complacent and will continue to fight for every vote. Liz is across the country meeting as many members as possible and showing why she is the candidate who will deliver on our 2019 manifesto promises, unlock every Brexit opportunity and unite the party.”
This article was originally published on HuffPost UK and has been updated.