Public sector pay and benefits have always featured heavily on BOM. Which is hardly surprising, given that the bill is now running at over £200bn pa, and pay levels in some parts of the public sector have escalated so astonishingly under Labour.
In 2007, the TaxPayers' Alliance started a campaign to publicise top public sector salaries, collecting data via published quango accounts and hundreds of FOI requests sent to local authorities. The results have been published in a series of public sector rich lists (eg see here) which have attracted considerable interest and comment, not least among ordinary taxpayers.
For quite a while, the government maintained it was a campaign got up by right-wing fanatics, and that the public sector needed to pay top dollar to attract top talent. Tyler himself was given a stern lecture by an ex-Labour cabinet minister on how such mindless campaigning served only to undermine "some of the valuable work" done by the TPA.
Which makes it all the more jaw-dropping to hear this today from our old friend A Darling:
"What is being paid [in the public sector] has sometimes lost the relationship it ought to have with what someone actually does. Once that happens, it’s not only unfair, it’s actually grossly inefficient...
In some quangos, local authorities and other organisations, the level of pay, especially at the top end, and bonuses have reached the stage where they don’t pass what I call the next-door neighbour test. If you can’t justify them to your neighbour, you’ve probably got it wrong...
It is not altogether clear to me why we pay very large salaries to people to do the same jobs as were being done 10 years ago for rather less.”To which our response is you don't say. And which particular bunch of blithering idiots were at the controls while this was happening?
And what are said repentething idiots intending to do about it now?
Well, according to the report, it's pay cuts.
Yes, that's right. Not for Darling a mere pay freeze (as proposed by us eg in this blog), but actual outright cuts.
So is he going to follow the Emerald Isle, with its across-the-board public sector pay cuts of up to 15% (see this blog)?
Don't hold your breath.
Or anything else.
The last time a Labour Prime Minister tried to cut public sector pay it sparked a mutiny in the Navy. And he wasn't about to fight a General Election entirely dependent on his union paymasters for money.
No, public sector pay may be continuing to rise at a healthy clip while private sector pay is suspended over a nasty black hole (chart), and Darling may feel compelled to express discomfort, but that's as far as it will go. This is yet another little problem for George's in-tray.