The public sector rich list

8:00 am - December 5th 2009

by Clifford Singer    

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The TaxPayers’ Alliance released its annual Public Sector Rich List today, always a sure-fire hit with the media. Among the statistics highlighted by the TPA – and quoted enthusiastically by journalists – are:

There are 8 people in the public sector who earn more than £1 million a year, compared with 4 people last year.
There are 35 people in the public sector earning above £500,000 a year compared with 21 last year.
There are 120 people earning above £250,000 a year compared with 88 last year.
Which is odd, because, in the small print beneath these statements, the TPA says the real reason for the increases is that it has surveyed more staff – by investigating more quangos and making more Freedom of Information requests. “The figures are therefore not directly comparable with previous editions of the Rich List,” the TPA cautions.

So why compare them then? And if it is going to compare them, why not be consistent and include inconvenient data, such as:

The average total remuneration of those included on the list is almost £225,990 per annum, compared with £240,000 per annum last year. Excluding staff in the newly nationalised banks, this year’s average is £209,151 – down 13% on last year.
Removing the nationalised bankers also brings the number of Rich List members earning more than £1 million a year down from 8 to 2 – ie half last year’s number, despite the larger survey group. Surely a cause for both TaxPayers’ Alliances to rejoice!

The irony is that, as I wrote recently in Red Pepper, there are some issues where the TaxPayers’ Alliance has a point – and high public sector executive pay is one of them. I don’t think anyone in the public sector should be earning close to £1 million a year. (Then again, I’m not convinced that anyone in the private sector should either.)

But it’s the public sector workers we hear much less about – at the other end of the spectrum – that are of greatest concern. No Public Sector List for them – many are missing from the statistics as their work has been contracted out to private suppliers. Most are women, and their jobs include social care, catering and cleaning.

Their plight is highlighted by Unison national secretary Heather Wakefield in Public Finance this week, who notes that the national minimum wage – currently £5.80 an hour – has become the standard pay rate on many contracts.

If the TPA showed any concern for the lowest paid – for example by supporting rather than attacking a living wage – the Public Sector Rich List might appear less like another cynical attempt to undermine the public sector in general.

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About the author
This is a guest contribution. Clifford Singer runs The Other Taxpayer's Alliance website. You can join the Facebook group here.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Equality ,Local Government

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Reader comments

Superb piece of writing.

I agree that the issue is the disparity in the hierarchy in the public sector. At one of the councils I worked at, the number of people earning more than £50,000 a year nearly tripled in three years – while the number of housing officers, etc (the people engaged in the important work on the service desk) was cut incrementally.

The issue of outsourcing of low paid workers is a disgrace – already low paid workers have their weekend enhancements cut, their annual leave and sick leave taken from them and are forced to work more shifts just to make ends meet. It goes without saying that they provide a lesser service as a result. The public sector is much needed, but not in this form.

2. Dick the Prick

It is a bit of a disgrace though and sure, there should be some comparative data for private sector staff who are reliant on public sector business. However, as per Heather – I worked in community safety for ages and the ratchet up of ‘managerial’ staff to over £50k was disgusting. Public sector wages are very much reliant on an hierarchial structure in that it’s not the work that gets paid for but a vague theory of supervisory responsibility. There was only 1 chap who could manage me – and fair enough, he got paid twice as much as me – but after him no bugger knew what or how we did our stuff which ended in the ridiculous situation of a complete amateur managing us who knew as much as the geezer at the end of the bar.

The elephant in the room is that all these CEO’s in local government can blame the Leader of the council for all mistakes – whereas they get a normal wage. My Leader (who’s the dog’s bollox) gets about £30k whereas the town clerk gets £150 and is a bloody waste of space. Quangoes – well, how accountable are they?

Excellent article,

Just one question. What exactly is the status of the banks? The RBS still has shareholders apart from the government, circa 30%, I believe. It is also still quoted on the FTSE.

In other words are they not in a kind of limbo between public and private?

4. Richard Blogger

The median income in this country is £25K. I think these figures make more sense when compared to that figure. I also think that the figures have little meaning when presented on their own, the private sector must be listed too. Oh and also organisations like TPA. I wonder where their executives appear in the list?

Yep, I think we could pretty much be calling RBS the public sector, what with the lorryloads of public money that have been poured down that hole. I very much consider myself a shareholder in that bank. Might present myself at their next meeting.

And let’s not forget the piles of money that are shunted from the public purse to private pockets by way of public-private contracting as a matter of course. Jarvis, Capita, Balfour friggin whatsit, Deloittes, BT, Ayglisys, Bupa – that lot may claim to be private sector, but they bloody well are not. They take huge dosh from the public purse.

‘The median income in this country is £25K. I think these figures make more sense when compared to that figure’

That’s about £10,000 more than the lowest paid Band B civil servants.

God knows what Band A’s are on.


It depends what you are trying to prove, does it not? In any event, are the banks not supposed to be as asset that we will profit from in due course when the public share ownership is sold off to the private investor?

I’d tend to agree with you that a lot of ‘consultancies’ are little more than overpaid mercenaries. It would be interesting to know what percentage of their income accrued from the private sector -v- the public sector, but this is probably commercially confidential.

Arguably, a first step in correcting our Public Sector Borrowing Requirement would be to cancel all such contracts, and if necessary, employ suitably qualified individuals directly at the grossly deflated salaries they could then command.

Must check if the Taxpayers Alliance has ever commented on this gross waste of taxpayers money.

These figures are of course complete tosh because they fail to include all the farmers who pick up tax payers hand outs.

The Duke of Westminster or Prince Charles will be picking up a million Pounds for their farm subsidies. Then of course there is all those weapons manufacturers who are all paid for by the state. Funny the tax payers bullshit organisation don’t mention them.

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