In the most detailed analysis of government salaries ever undertaken, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in collaboration with BBC’s Panorama, reveals just how many high earners there are at the top.
More than 38,000 government workers are paid over £100,000, and 9,187 earn more than the Prime Minister (£142,500), according to the Bureau’s public sector pay database.
The findings put an end to the myth that the public sector worker trades high pay for job security and gold plated pensions.
The revelations will also come as a shock to central government, whose best estimate puts the number of high-earners at just 25,000, a miscalculation of more than 50 per cent.
The data also reveals that despite years of legislation and campaigning aimed at achieving gender equality in the public sector, the glass ceiling has hardly cracked, let alone, been smashed.
Among public sector workers paid more than £100,000 only one in five are women.
The fire service, hardly surprisingly, is the most male dominated high salary sector with women making up only seven per cent. But more shocking is the revelation that in schools and universities there are six men for every woman in the £100,000 plus pay bracket.
The gap is still wider when at the top. Among the public sector’s very highest paid – those on £200,000 or more, there are eight men for every woman, and in the Judiciary at this level men out-number women by an incredible 18 to one.
The public sector
The scale and scope of the public sector has exploded since Labour came to power in 1997. Then it employed 5.2 million people, but over the last 13 years that has jumped to 6.1 million.
Pay has ballooned too. The government’s wage bill has jumped 29 per cent in five years to hit £157.7bn. At the top the figures are still more dramatic. The pay for the highest three per cent of public sector jobs has risen by a massive 64 per cent in the past decade.
As the government grapples to restore the country’s battered public finances, it is the public sector that will bear the brunt of the cuts. Already the government is talking of stemming public pay, with pay freezes and cuts to bonus payments.
But critics fear that most of the cost cutting will be made at grassroots level rather than among those at the top – and yet according to this new data Britain’s highest paid public servants cost the country nearly £5bn a year.
According to Cabinet Office Minister Sir Frances Maude: “You don’t need to pay stupendous amounts to get good people. You can square the circle of having really good people not on telephone number salaries and massive built in bonuses. That public service ethos is very important.”
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The highest earners
The highest paid public servant according to the Bureau’s survey is the Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson. Staff at the broadcaster feature prominently among those at the top of the list. But so do GPs, many of whom earn significantly more than the best surgeons and medical specialists.
In all there are 1,000 public servants earning more than £200,000 and 9,187 paid more than the Prime Minister.
Every sector is represented from fire fighters to police chiefs, army bosses to teachers, doctors, civil servants and quango directors, regulators and council heads, with many sectors paying hundreds, if not thousands of staff more than the £142,500 paid to their ultimate boss, the Prime Minister. The National Health Service (NHS) alone pays nearly 6,500 employees more than David Cameron.
General Practitioners (GPs) in particular have seen their pay explode over the past decade, with ten earning more than £300,000 and 1,465 taking home more than the PM. The highest paid works in Hillingdon and receives £475,500.
Education, education, education
The Bureau found that 385 teachers in England get paid more that £100,000 a year and that 17 teachers in England earn more than the Prime Minister.
The highest paid teacher is employed by Essex County Council, but officials there would not disclose the person’s name, or position. What we do know is that they are paid an annual salary of £232,500.
Brian Strutton, the National Secretary for Public Services at the GMB Union is appalled at the disparity between salaries within schools: “The fact that a head teacher could be paid so much while other staff in the school are paid so little and our members working in schools do feel that’s outrageous.”
In Britain’s Town Hall more than 1,500 council chiefs top the Prime Minister’s pay packet, with the current annual wage bill for the top 2,000 council earners now nearing a quarter of a billion pounds.
The highest paying authority is Wandsworth Borough Council spends almost £5 million on just 36 employees. Its Chief Executive Gerald Jones is the highest paid council leader in the country on a salary of £299,925 including £54,000 in bonuses. This as the average UK salary stands at £22,405.
Our study is based on responses to over 2,400 Freedom of Information requests, which asked every government body for pay, gender and job title of every employee earning more than £100,000.
The database formed the basis of Panorama: Because We’re Worth It – The Taxpayers’ Rich List.