Brandon Lewis is backing Liz Truss in the leadership contest. (Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC via PA Media)
Plans to pay public servants less in poorer parts of the country “were not something that was ever proposed” by Liz Truss, one of her key backers has insisted.
Brandon Lewis’ comments appeared to directly contradict a press release issued by the Secretary of State’s leadership campaign just two days ago.
Truss was forced into a screeching U-turn yesterday after the policy, designed to save £8.8 billion, was destroyed by senior Tories.
It was part of an overall package designed to save £11 billion of “Whitehall waste”.
In the press release it was said: “By introducing regional boards, civil servants’ pay can be adjusted in line with the actual areas where civil servants work, saving billions.
“This will also avoid the public sector displacing the private sector in places where private business simply cannot compete with public wages.”
The release added: “This could save up to £8.8 billion per year. This is the potential saving if the system were to be adopted in the long term for all public sector employees.”
Asked about the policy on Radio Four’s Today programme, Lewis said: “The word in there that is important is the word ‘if’ – that was not something that was ever suggested and Liz made it clear yesterday that this is not a policy which is led. taken forward.”
He added: “The reality is that what Liz outlined as a package yesterday was how you deal with Whitehall waste.
“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 ever a political proposal.
He said: “What was outlined there was what you could save if you did this across the board – that was never the case. This was about what you could do with new people coming into the civil service. But she has been clear that we’re not going to do that.”
Announcing her U-turn yesterday, Truss said: “I never had any intention of changing the terms and conditions of teachers and nurses,” she said.
“But what I want to be clear about is that I will not go ahead with the regional wage boards. That is no longer my policy.”
However, there was better news for Truss in a new YouGov poll which showed her increasing her lead over Rishi Sunak to 34 points, up 10 points from a week ago.
A Truss campaign spokesperson 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 out across the country meeting as many members as possible and showing why she is the candidate who will deliver on our 2019 manifesto promises, unleash the full potential of Brexit and unite the party.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.