Saturday, March 10, 2007

What about a Town Hall poor list?

In common with most other workers on PAYE I occasionally notice that I am paying a considerable amount of tax when I look at my pay slip – no one has ever invited me to join the Taxpayers’ Alliance though. Which is just as well as it appears to be a weird right-wing group dedicated to slagging off our public services.

This outfit have had a fair bit of publicity for their “Town Hall Rich List”. This is a listing of all those local authority employees earning more than £100,000, based on requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Here is a link to the full report.

These are some of the things we learn from the report. There are 5 people in local councils who earn more than £200,000 a year. There are 64 people in town halls who earn more than £150,000 a year. The number of people earning above £100,000 in local authorities is increasing. There are 578 people on these “fat cat” salaries, compared with 429 people the year before, an increase of 35 per cent. Senior staff turnover in local authorities is rapid, but there are 350 people who feature on the Rich List in both 2004-05 and 2005-06. Their average pay rise was 6.09 per cent, three times the official rate of inflation.

Of course the Taxpayers Alliance simply want to use these figures to support demands for lower taxes (which means massive cuts in vital public services, such as we are already experiencing in many London Boroughs at the moment). But the figures illustrate another important contrast.

Compare the handful of high paid high flyers with the local government workforce as a whole. Thirty per cent of all employees are on the lowest five pay points, that is earning less than £12,747 (based on 1 April 2006 pay levels). A further thirty one percent of all employees are on scale point 10 – 17, that is earning up to £15,825 per year. This is £8,000 less than the median annual earnings across the economy of £23,850 – so 60% of local government workers are earning at least £8,000 less than average earnings.

All of this information comes from this year’s local government pay claim. Quite rightly we are putting in for 5% or £1,000, whichever is the greater. Between 2004 and 2006 pay in Local Government rose by only 8.9 %, falling behind the rise in average earnings, which grew by 12.4% and inflation which rose by 9.3%. This represents a fall in real living standards for local authority employees. Not of course for the 350 individuals singled out by the Taxpayers Alliance – whilst our NJC pay went up by 2.95% last year, their pay went up more than twice as fast, by over 6%.

The Local Government Association have responded to the Taxpayers Alliance, saying that “when senior salaries in the private sector are compared to senior salaries in the public sector, the taxpayer gets very good value for money.” I don’t know about that – but I do know that the low pay of many local government workers means that we are getting public services on the cheap. I shouldn’t imagine we’ll see either the Taxpayers Alliance (the hard working tax payers they say they are speaking up for don't seem to include us!) or most of their “Town Hall Rich List” lobbying in our support. We shall have to rely upon ourselves.

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