High Pay Low Pay

Nov 25, 2016 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 23 Nov 2016

17:17 to 17:26

On Wednesday 23 November, we discussed a serious issue in the Assembly (a notable first, some might say!). This was public sector pay. In other words, stratospheric salaries of £140,000+ (this figure represents the Prime Minister’s pay) being paid to over-promoted bureaucrats to shuffle paperclips from one part of their desk to another.

Of course, while the council bosses are being paid these ludicrous amounts, the workers at the bottom are often getting minimal pay rises, if they get any at all.

So, if you want to raise wages at the bottom, would it help to curb pay rises at the top?  I think it would!

Below is the speech I made in the Assembly on the subject.  One interesting aspect is that both myself and Neil McEvoy (Plaid) named individuals whom we believed were overpaid public sector officials.  As this was the subject matter of the debate, one might think this was fairly standard stuff.  After all, if we are going to have a debate on overpaid public sector officials, then surely we are going to talk about some examples of these?

But apparently not.  Mark Drakeford, Labour’s Finance Minister, slagged us off for naming names.  He said: “I absolutely deprecate it—and I put it on the record here—I absolutely deprecate it when members of this Assembly attack, by name, individuals—whether they are in the private sector, whether they hold public appointment, whether they are in the public sector—who cannot be here to answer back for themselves to that personal attack that is made on them.”  There is more from Mark Drakeford at the bottom of this piece.

So apparently I shouldn’t have named poor old Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, as he wasn’t there to defend his £269k a year salary.

Well, can I therefore make a sensible suggestion?  Let’s call in Colin before the relevant committee to find out what he does to earn his tremendous pay, and let’s also call in, if necessary, the board members who appointed him to tell us what it was based on.

My speech:

Spoken Contribution – 17:17

Gareth Bennett: Low pay is a serious problem for public sector workers at the bottom end of the scale in Wales. Local councils no longer have direct labour organisations, agency workers are often used, and this tends to have a depressing effect on wages. So, we do have to have a look at this, and one way in which low pay might be partially addressed is by trying to put a brake on excessively high pay. So, if any party has any reasonable suggestions to curb fat cat pay rises in the public sector, then we in UKIP are more than happy to look at them.

Interjection from Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru leader): In the last Assembly, Rhodri Glyn did.

Spoken Contribution – 17:17

Gareth Bennett: Okay – well done, Rhodri Glyn. But it may not be enough, Leanne.

Independent remuneration boards always sound like a good idea, but somebody has to appoint the independent board members in the first place. Sometimes these tend to be one set of public officials recommending a hefty pay rise for another set of public officials. So, the appointment of these board members needs to be carefully monitored.

Pay ceilings would be another tool that could be usefully employed. We also support the idea of clearly defined roles for council chief executives. If they are to be on their high pay scales, then there should be clear instructions as to their duties. It is difficult to argue that council CEOs should receive extra lolly for being election returning officers, which one would think would be part of their statutory duties.

But if we are going to get a grip on public sector pay here in Wales then we need to get our own house in order first. The pay rise AMs received this year, recommended by an independent remuneration board, provoked considerable controversy. I would propose that, in future, all AM pay rises are simply tied to inflation.

[Interruption from Leanne Wood:] They are? [Interruption.] They are now? Well, it didn’t seem—that was not how it was reported at the time. [Interruption.] They are? [Interruption.] Okay, we’re making good progress. I see you did actually do something about pay in the last Assembly, so—.

I don’t think that we can use extra responsibilities as an excuse in future to hike AM pay above inflation levels. So, I hope that that argument won’t occur.

Now, we have had a look at other aspects of public sector pay. Neil mentioned housing association bosses. Dawn mentioned the problem of people in academia. Now, Colin Riordan, the head man at Cardiff University, is on £269,000 a year. Is he worth even half of that? And what are we going to do about his pay? Thank you.

Response to the debate from Mark Drakeford (Finance Minister in the Assembly Government): Can I say as well, Chair, that I absolutely deprecate it—and I put it on the record here—I absolutely deprecate it when Members of this Assembly attack, by name, individuals—whether they are in the private sector, whether they hold public appointment, whether they are in the public sector—who cannot be here to answer back for themselves to that personal attack that is made on them? That is not the way that we have conducted our debates in this Assembly and I absolutely deprecate it when people indulge in that sort of behaviour…