Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dare to pay the rate for the job

When will a UK government face down the Express and the Mail and assert that it is important to carry out public administration well, and for that it is necessary to pay public servants salaries in the same ball park as those performing comparable work outside government? It is all the more important that the chancellor of the exchequer receives sound unbiased advice from a civil service independent of vested interests, rather than having to rely on oligarchs and staff lent to him by merchant bankers and multinational accountants.

This failure to pay the rate for the job was brought home by the evidence given to Treasury Select Committee last Tuesday by Sir Nicholas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. According to the Independent, Sir Nicholas said that the superior pay on offer to staff at the central bank and also the tax authorities made it hard to prevent talented junior staff from jumping ship. What is surprising is that not only are City institutions paying more than the Treasury, but also that “We pay less well than other departments, we have much higher turnover and I think we’ve got to do something about it”. It is not as if other parts of the civil service are totally happy with their pay: "13 per cent of Treasury employees felt they were receiving reasonable pay compared to people doing a similar job in other organisations. The comparable figure at HMRC was 23 per cent. At the Department of Communities and Local Government 32 per cent felt their pay was reasonable. At the Foreign Office 26 per cent felt the same." (from the same Independent report)

The one bright spot is that the more female-friendly ethos of the Treasury means that the Department continues to retain high-calibre women. “Often we will retain high quality women who will have child caring responsibilities who find life as City corporate lawyer or a City financier pretty difficult” said Sir Nicholas.

One might ask when we are going to see a Madam Chancellor of the Exchequer - but that is for another day.

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