A plan by Liz Truss to slash public spending by up to £11 billion a year has been dismissed as a “fantasy” and “bonkers”.
The foreign secretary pledged to wage a “war on Whitehall waste” if she becomes prime minister by cutting the amount of days off civil servants are allowed, ending national pay deals and scrapping diversity and inclusion jobs.
She said she would also tackle “left-wing groupthink” within the civil service as part of the reforms.
But in a major embarrassment, Truss’s team were forced to amend one of their figures after HuffPost UK pointed out the calculations they had sent to journalists were wrong.
It is the latest in a slew of red meat policies the foreign secretary has thrown at the Tory membership who will decide the next prime minister.
“She’d do well to consider if any CEO of a private company would think publicly attacking their staff in this way was viable strategy for long-term success.”
Public sector pay experts described the plans as “bonkers” with “numbers all over the place” while one told HuffPost UK: “The numbers don’t add up and the terminology doesn’t make sense.”
A press release sent out by her campaign said her government would “build on the 22,000 civil servants being moved out of the capital by 2030” to save the public purse £557 million a year in London pay allowances.
The press release also repeated this £557 million saving in its footnotes.
However, HuffPost UK pointed out that London weighting only stands at around £4,000 a year per civil servant - not £25,000 as the calculation appeared to suggest.
Her team admitted their mistake and said the policy will actually reduce government spending by just £153 million - a difference of £404 million.
They insisted that the overall £11 billion savings figure “remains correct”.
The bulk of the savings – some £8.8 billion – would come from paying workers living in cheaper areas of the country less than counterparts in places like London and the South East where the cost of living is higher.
The Truss campaign argue that because civil service pay is negotiated at a national level, no account is taken of the regional cost of living.
By introducing regional pay boards, they claim, civil servants’ salaries can be adjusted in line with where they work, saving the taxpayer billions but also ensuring private employers are not “crowded out” by higher public sector wages.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said it showed the government’s commitment to levelling-up was “dead” and Northerners’ pay would be hit hardest.
She added: “Liz Truss is declaring war on herself with her fantasy recipe for levelling down.
“This wannabe prime minister is stuck in the past, fighting old battles, and promising a race to the bottom on public sector workers’ pay and rights.
“Her ‘tailored’ pay plans would level down the pay of Northerners, worsening the divide which already exists. This out-of-touch government’s commitment to levelling up is dead.”
Dave Penman, head of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, accused Truss of recycling “failed policies and tired rhetoric from the 1980s”.
He described her plan as out of the “P&O Ferries playbook” which would lead to cuts to “pay, terms and conditions”.
“As she is so preoccupied with comparisons to the private sector, she’d do well to consider if any CEO of a private company would think publicly attacking their staff in this way was viable strategy for long-term success,” he added.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka warned the Tory leadership hopeful that if she pursues these proposals in No.10 she will face opposition “every step of the way”.
“Civil servants are not a political tool to be used and abused for one person’s ambition; they are the hard-working people who keep the country running, day in day out, and they deserve respect,” he added.
Researchers at the Institute for Government suggested the scope of Truss’s regional pay boards would go beyond civil servants to public servants such as teachers and nurses.
The Truss campaign say she could save the taxpayer £137 million per year by banning “facility time” - in which trade union representatives receive paid time off to focus on union work.
Around £2 billion would be saved by bringing the average civil service leave entitlement down from 27 days to the 25 days usually found in the private sector.
Scrapping Whitehall diversity officers would save around £12 million a year, the Truss campaign claimed, by getting rid of at least 326 posts.
Despite the Conservative Party being in power for 12 years, Truss said: “There is too much bureaucracy and stale groupthink in Whitehall. If I make it into Downing Street, I will put an end to that and run a government that focuses relentlessly on delivering for the British public, and offer value to hard-working taxpayers.
“I have shown in my time in government that I’m prepared to take on the Whitehall orthodoxy and get things done.”