Liberal Democrats claim they blocked Tory North East regional pay plans in 2014

Liberal Democrat Berwick candidate Julie Porksen says Chancellor George Osborne attempted to revive regional pay plans last year

John Millard Julie Porksen from Hepscott
Julie Porksen from Hepscott

Liberal Democrat candidate Julie Porksen has accused Conservatives of secretly planning to slash salaries of nurses, teachers and other public sector workers in the North East.

Lib Dems say Conservatives attempted to revive controversial plans for “regional pay” as late as last year, despite publicly insisting they have ruled the idea out.

It would mean workers in the North and Midlands were paid less than those in the south for doing the same work, on the grounds that private sector jobs tend to pay more in the south of England.

The row comes just a week after Conservatives launched their own attack on the Liberal Democrats over the same issue - and claimed it was actually the Lib Dems who backed plans for regional pay.

Mrs Porksen is the candidate in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where one of the fiercest battles of the general election campaign is underway.

Liberal Democrats held the seat in 2010 with a majority of 2,690, while the Tories were in second place.

Lib Dems are claiming that last year they had to stop Conservative chancellor George Osborne from resurrecting plans to introduce regional pay, in their role as members of the Coalition government.

The policy was first announced by Mr Osborne in 2011, but swiftly abandoned.

However, Liberal Democrats say that in late 2014 the Chancellor tried to revive the policy again, asking officials to prepare a report on a “public sector pay premium” - a reference to the idea that public sector workers are overpaid in some parts of the country.

The source of the claim is Liberal Democrat politician Danny Alexander, who was Mr Osborne’s second-in-command as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Mrs Porksen said: “Our teachers, nurses, police and other public sector workers in the North East do a fantastic job and should be paid the same as their counterparts in other parts of the country.

“We already have a paramedic recruitment problem in the North East and need to make sure we are offering the same salaries as the rest of the country to recruit these key front-line staff.

“I will always stand up for the rights of workers in the North East and make sure they get a fair deal.

“If elected as the MP for Berwick I will work with Lib Dem colleagues to ensure public sector workers get fair pay rises in the next parliament.”

Mr Alexander said: “When the Tories asked Treasury officials to publish a report backing regional pay in 2014 we were forced to block it again.”

Last week the Conservatives published their own claims that Liberal Democrats had in fact backed regional pay.

A Conservative spokesman said the party’s manifesto made it clear that a Tory government would not introduce regional pay. It states: “We value our outstanding public servants. Over the last five years, we have made efficiencies in government.

“We have ruled out the introduction of regional pay in the public sector, which we do not support and will not introduce.”

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