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Massaging the figures: the Public Sector Rich List

(Cross-posted to Liberal Conspiracy)

The TaxPayers' Alliance released its annual Public Sector Rich List today, always a sure-fire hit with the media. Among the statistics highlighted by the TPA - and quoted enthusiastically by journalists - are:

Which is odd, because, in the small print beneath these statements, the TPA says the real reason for the increases is that it has surveyed more staff - by investigating more quangos and making more Freedom of Information requests. "The figures are therefore not directly comparable with previous editions of the Rich List," the TPA cautions.

So why compare them then? And if it is going to compare them, why not be consistent and include inconvenient data, such as:

Removing the nationalised bankers also brings the number of Rich List members earning more than £1 million a year down from 8 to 2 - ie half last year's number, despite the larger survey group. Surely a cause for both TaxPayers' Alliances to rejoice!

The irony is that, as I wrote recently in Red Pepper, there are some issues where the TaxPayers' Alliance has a point – and high public sector executive pay is one of them. I don't think anyone in the public sector should be earning close to £1 million a year. (Then again, I'm not convinced that anyone in the private sector should either.)

But it's the public sector workers we hear much less about - at the other end of the spectrum - that are of greatest concern. No Public Sector List for them - many are missing from the statistics as their work has been contracted out to private suppliers. Most are women, and their jobs include social care, catering and cleaning. Their plight is highlighted by Unison national secretary Heather Wakefield in Public Finance this week, who notes that the national minimum wage - currently £5.80 an hour - has become the standard pay rate on many contracts.

If the TPA showed any concern for the lowest paid - for example by supporting rather than attacking a living wage - the Public Sector Rich List might appear less like another cynical attempt to undermine the public sector in general.

Posted by Other TPA at 04:13pm on 4 December 2009
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