Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Public Sector pay and the PM

Austerity for who Mr Cameron

Mr Cameron can afford to take a pay cut more than most

Interesting to see how the Government & the media have been getting in a tiz about public sector pay : BBC News – 9,000 in public sector get more pay than prime minister with “research” for a Panorama documentary BBC Panorama to air programme on public sector ‘rich list’ (newstatesman.com) suggesting that 9,000 people working in the public sector are now paid more than the Prime Minister.

I’ve worked in the public sector for most of my career – in education – and so too has my wife – in the health service.

We’ve noticed over several cycles, that pretty much the same happens to our pay relative to the private sector.

In times of economic boom, our pay has lagged well behind private sector salaries – when friends working for retail and financial companies have received whacking great pay rises, we’ve received a “cost of living rise” – usually at less than the rate suggested by inflation rates. Where they’ve received bonuses, we’ve received a memo, or a Christmas card.

It’s not all been bad though because in the lean times we’ve still usually received a cost of living allowance, where they’ve taken a pay cut, and reduced hours; and where we’ve had a memo or a Christmas card, they’ve had their ‘cards’ as well – and their P. 45’s.

So it seems fairly evident that public sector pay rises less quickly in times of plenty, and falls more slowly in times of lean. In the words of Talking Heads “Same as it ever was” (and the video’s at the bottom of the page – any excuse for a bonus Talking Heads video !)

So please forgive me if I’m unimpressed by the suggestion that public sector employees are somehow “fat cats”. There’s only one market for staff remember – and the difficulties that public sector organisations have in attracting top staff away from highly paid private sector jobs, during the boom times, are what drives up the salaries – they stay there during the downtimes because the staff are generally treated a little more fairly by their employees. Come the next boom, they’ll lag behind again.

So let’s wait and see what the public sector fat cats look like after the next set of bankers’ bonuses.

There is of course also the question of why the PM’s salary should be some kind of yard stick. I’m not sure this article’s the best place to debate it.

David Cameron is a British politician, Leader ...

Prime Minister David Cameron

Do remember though that David Cameron‘s much publicised 5% pay cut is a somewhat easy gesture to make for a man whose personal wealth has been estimated at around £30, 000, 000 Claims that David Cameron has a £30m fortune sit uneasily with taxpayers. So what is the truth about his money? | Mail Online . While this may be somewhat exaggerated it is certainly true that both David Cameron and his wife are of families with a long tradition of extreme wealth. Which once again begs the question – Austerity for who, Mr Cameron ?

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September 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who decides what the public think ?

NEW mak

Just got back from a week in Cornwall.

I had a very weak mobile signal. I could occasionally tweet. Could not get mobile internet on my laptop – so didn’t see any websites. Didn’t have a telly, didn’t pick up a newspaper.

So from being a news addicted politically aware blogster, I turned very quickly into someone who didn’t have much of a clue what was going on.

Even having been back for nearly 24 hours now, I’m still not up to speed – which sort of puts me on a par with the rest of the country – you know, the type that doesn’t do blogs, the type that uses Facebook to share family snaps rather than run political campaigns, the kind that follows celebrities on Twitter, rather than politicians. The kind that goes to make the coffee when the news comes on, and if they ever read a newspaper, it tends to be from the back to the front, or maybe just the back.

So what’s going on in the world – well it seems some bloke who advises the Government on drugs has advised them to reverse the recent reversal of cannabis’s grading as a Class B drug, and to reduce its classification. As a result he’s apparently been sacked. According to the BBC news on 5 Live, this has been done “On a whim” of the prime minister. Now the media are up in arms about the Government being dismissive of scientific evidence, and it would seem are presenting the Prime Minister in a negative light for his actions.

And with my very scant knowledge of what’s going on – I’ve barely any reason to challenge that perception – so it sort of becomes my own perception by default.

Except I’m not so sure (well you knew I’d be cynical didn’t you !). First of all it strikes me that if the Government had followed the advice, we’d effectively have a U-turn on a U-turn – and remember the last U-turn wasn’t in response to any great pressure, it was in response to the difficulties experienced in practice to the partial decriminalisation of cannabis – an admission that the new policy was not working. I can’t imagine many Governments being keen on a 360 degree turn.

Next it strikes me that an advisor should be doing his advising in private, not in the national press. I work with advisors/consultants as part of my local authority’s work for Building Schools for the Future – No one in the authority would take kindly to those advisors bleating the advice which we pay them for, to the general public. Neither would we feel bound by their advice – advisors provide a particular perspective on an issue – part of the picture. Not the full picture. If any of them sought to publicise their advice, and criticise the authorities actions in the light of it, then I suspect that the likely outcome would be that the authority would dispense with their services.

I also know that research evidence rarely proves or disproves anything – rather it tends to support particular hypotheses. So what ever evidence the advisor has or has not, it’s unlikely to prove conclusive (and I don’t know what the evidence is remember). It’s also likely to be part of a whole range of other indicators.

Governments don’t take decisions based on just one factor. They have to consider things like how popular a decision is likely to be for instance – and if that sounds cynical then just remember that no Government can do anything if they lose power – so popularity HAS to be a consideration. They also have to consider not just realities but also perceptions – because we need have no doubts that had the Government followed the advisors advice, they’d have been perceived (with assistance from the press) as being ‘soft’ on drugs, and as woolly liberals (not to mention dithering and U-turning).

If anyone thinks that scientific evidence is the only basis for legislation then simply consider the case for an outright ban on tobacco. The evidence is overwhelming – it IS a major cause of ill health and death in the general community. But whatever your position on a tobacco ban, I think most people would agree that there are a myriad of complicating factors that enter into the thinking that would lead to a ban. Tax income, freedom of expression, Nanny states, relationships with trading partners, employment, consequences of criminalisation – I could go on – but won’t – you get the picture, it’s not just about scientific evidence.

Everything I’ve said here though is without any knowledge of the facts of this case – I can’t even remember the bloke in question’s name. Which as I said previously, puts me on a par with large numbers of the population, people who don’t share my interest in politics and current affairs – but who have a vote just as I do.

What seems likely to me is that far from the sacking of this being on “a whim”, it’s more probably that it’s been thought out very carefully. I’d also suggest that the ‘advice’ that’s been made so public has not been done as an off the cuff throwaway thing either – it’s been planned with some expectation of the consequences.

The Government it seems have acted swiftly and firmly to defend their position and to sack the advisor in question. Whatever you think of the action, it is hardly that of a dithering administration. It’s pretty authoritative I’d say.

So who decides which way to sell this to the public ? Who decides how to take a story and turn it into a way to present the Govenrment in negative tones again ? More importantly – Why do they decide this ?

The news outlets in this country have a massive impact on public opinion – to the extent that for many people their opinion is effectively decided for them. It worries me, that most of this opinion forming is done simply by rubbishing everything the Government does – and I’m sure it would be the same for a Conservative Government.

This saddens me. They need to take more responsibility, make proper analysis of the news, give both credit and criticism where it’s due – and most importantly, to give some respect to the public and the enormous power which they wield over them.

[The picture by the way is actor Milton Johns who has nothing at all  to do with with this blog other than that I thought he looked suitably creepy ! Can anyone remember the name of the 1973 children’s drama series he was in alongside David Bradley (of ‘Kes’ fame) ? – Try to remember ! Try to remember Terry ! ]

October 31, 2009 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments

   

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