As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my first responsibility is to the taxpayer. Every pound that comes into the Exchequer was earned by someone through hard work, and could have been used for a new car, a holiday or a treat for the children. It means I have a responsibility to make sure that all public spending is justified.
That’s why we are capping pay-offs at £95,000 for senior public sector workers who leave their jobs. Every year, more than 1,600 highly-paid workers such as council chief executives get six-figure golden goodbyes – all from the taxpayers’ pocket.
Don’t get me wrong: public servants should be fairly paid. But in total, these massive payoffs cost over £1 billion. We simply can’t justify these sums when we’re prioritising spending on things the public actually wants, like schools, hospitals and frontline police.
As we bring this into action, we’re protecting long-serving, lower-earning staff. And we’re also reforming public sector pay, to make sure valued workers are paid competitive salaries to attract the best people. We’ve raised nurses’ starting salaries by nearly £3,000 over three years, increased many teachers’ pay by £800, and made sure that the average police officer earns £38,000.
But these six-figure payoffs for senior public sector workers – outlined yesterday in the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Town Hall Rich List – simply weren’t right.
In Westminster, we can sometimes forget just how much the public hate their money being wasted. During the previous Labour government, reckless spending plunged the country into terrible financial trouble, putting jobs and livelihoods at risk. When they left office, Liam Byrne, my predecessor as Chief Secretary, left a note on the desk saying: “I’m afraid there is no money”.
Since we came to power, we have reformed government, got a grip on public services and cut down on waste. But Labour aim to upend all that: John McDonnell, who makes Liam Byrne look like Ebenezer Scrooge, wants to spend £1,000 billion of taxpayers’ money.
Labour’s priorities are not the same as those of the people they claim to represent. Labour want to control all parts of the economy and society so that they can pursue the politics of envy. It would leave us all paying higher taxes and the economy in tatters.
One of their bad ideas is Universal Basic income, a flat income paid to everyone from the Government, regardless of need. Imagine the massive tax hikes that it would take to support a system which evidence shows doesn’t improve people’s chances of finding good work. It’s exactly the sort of wasteful programme Labour always sign us up to, leaving the bill for taxpayers.
Instead, people need the Universal Basic Infrastructure of life, and the freedom to succeed. A good education and job opportunities, good healthcare, good transport links, good broadband, and low taxes that leave more for people to spend and businesses to invest.
That’s exactly what I’m hearing as I go round the country to places like Tadcaster, Bolton, Felixstowe and Walsall, talking to people about what they want the Government to spend their money on.
Everyone I have spoken to wants government to focus on the basics: the police, education, roads, defence and the NHS. Not one person has suggested we fritter away money on industrial subsidies or the wasteful programmes Labour have put forward.
Later this year, the Treasury will be conducting the Spending Review, where we will set departmental budgets from 2020 onwards. I have no doubt there’ll be constant demands for more public spending.
But throughout the process, we’ll put the public first. We’ll take as little from you as we can, so that you have the freedom to spend more on yourself and your family, to help you enjoy life. And we’ll spend what we do take as carefully as possible, giving you the fundamentals and foundations of a successful life in our great country.