Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tavish tackles Salmond on extra £53 million to high paid Public Sector staff

Today's First Minister's Questions was mostly boring. I frankly can't be bothered with listening to Labour and the SNP fighting like ferrets in a sack over the details of the Great Scotland Bill Stramash. Just as an aside, Wendy Alexander, it's possible to question people closely without being rude. A useful skill to learn if you're a committee convener. If Iain Gray and Alex Salmond want to have the sort of uninspiring exchange interspersed with scripted jokes (this time on Salmond's appearance on Desert Island Discs), can they not just do it in private?

The highlight of the half hour for me was Tavish Scott tackling Salmond on high public sector pay. The Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament have been doing what's become an annual series of FOI requests to public sector organisations asking them how many people they employ on salaries of £100,000 and above and what the total wage bill is.

Despite Alex Salmond telling Tavish a year ago that the Government had already acted on high pay, there are now 235 more people on salaries of £100k or more than there were then, costing almost £53 million more.

How on earth has that happened in a year when we've all known the cuts were coming?

I've had a look at the figures and it seems like the NHS is responsible for a great deal of the increase. The only health board to reduce its number of high earners was Orkney. Western Isles doubled theirs. Ayrshire and Arran went from 162-175. I assume that most of these are doctors, but it would be interesting to see the breakdown.

More than 10% of the total increase, at a cost of more than £5 million on last year, took place at the National Waiting Times Centre. I know next to nothing about this, but it has been around since 2002, so why such a big increase in high earners in the last year.

NHS National Services Scotland went up from 20-29. I wonder what that was all about.

Other big increases came from universities - for example an increase of 19 at the University of Dundee costing an extra £2.5 million, 13 at Edinburgh costing an extra £2 million.

I was surprised to find any increase at all in local government when Councils are so strapped for cash, yet we see Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire take on four extra high earners, the Borders 3 and N and S Lanarkshire and Glasgow 1 extra each.

It's now 3 years since John Swinney warned public sector pay bosses of "punitive action" if they didn't get high pay under control. Well, it seems that they have ignored him and he's done nothing about it.

This all seems to be another example of SNP actions not matching up to the rhetoric. They talk a good fight on high pay, but the extra £53 million in a year tells a different story.

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