Public sector fat cats need to go on a diet

Gordon Brown has promised to keep public sector pay rises within the 2% inflation target. But his tough policy only seems to apply to nurses and teachers rather than top bosses on six-figure salaries.

The report by the Taxpayers' Alliance on public-sector pay confirms that the Labour Government has become "an exercise in hypocrisy and deceit", says Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express. With his "usual moralising tones", Gordon Brown has been promising to keep pay rises for public-sector workers within the Government's 2% inflation target, but his tough policy appears to apply only to frontline staff, such as nurses and teachers, rather than the "feather-bedded" elite.

Figures unearthed by the pressure group from the annual reports of 126 public-sector bodies reveal that the top 300 bosses in the state sector saw their salaries jump 12.8% last year, boosting their pay to an average of £237,564. Seventeen earned more than £500,000 a year, and the highest earner, Adam Crozier, group chief executive of Royal Mail, saw his total package increase by 21% last year to £1.25m, even as he cancelled the second mail delivery and increased the price of stamps.

Defenders of large public-sector salaries would argue that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, says The Sunday Times, and that "people handling large budgets and matters of national importance deserve to be properly rewarded". They will also point out that rewards in the private sector are far higher.

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Yet comparing public and private salaries is "like comparing apples and pears". In the state sector, reward is "linked only tenuously to performance and is often given even in circumstances of failure". In the private sector, if you fail, you're out. Quite, says McKinstry. Public officials have failed to achieve real improvements in the NHS, policy, education or transport, yet are still permitted to "leech off the taxpayers for years", spouting out pointless reports to "create the illusion of importance".

The private sector isn't much better, says Peter McKay in the Daily Mail. There are many examples of "failed" private-sector bosses whose "golden goodbyes" allow them to live in luxury until they die. But I don't believe it's the money that causes the rage so much as the "swaggering arrogance" of big firms and publicly owned bodies, the way they "deflect our complaints" with "evasive voicemails, and blithely advertise themselves as good when they're deplorably bad". The Government should bind fat cats "hand and foot", restrict their freedom to run rings around us, and force them to have "real human beings on call 24/7 to solve the problems they create".