The Treasury has signed off nearly 200 public sector salaries higher than that of the Prime Minister since the last election, despite widespread concern about soaring levels of senior pay.
New figures released yesterday revealed Whitehall is being asked to agree public sector pay packages worth more than £142,500 at a rate of two per week.
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, did not say precisely how many of the 189 requests for high-pay packages the Government has approved, insisting it “would not be appropriate” to reveal details of discussions around individual salaries.
But a Treasury spokesman said the vast majority had been signed off, albeit some at a lower rate than had been requested.
The revelation such large pay packages are still being agreed at a time of severe austerity has drawn a furious reaction from unions and opposition MPs.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who uncovered the figures through a written Parliamentary question, said: “Low-paid council workers are seeing their pay frozen... In setting tough rules we need to ensure fairness.
“But since the election, 189 requests have flooded into the Treasury for salaries higher than the Prime Minister’s, a mere 45 of which seem to have been challenged. The Government talks about pay restraint, but it only seems to apply to those at the bottom, not the top.”
The Coalition came to power pledging to reduce high levels of pay within the upper echelons of the civil service. Figures published last summer showed there were 291 senior officials earning more than David Cameron’s annual salary – down from 345 in 2010.
Mr Alexander said this showed high pay is now falling.
But John Cafferty, Yorkshire secretary of the public sector union Unison, described the ongoing situation as a “scandal.”
“It is clear the Government are secretly looking after the rich and powerful, while attacking the lowest paid,” he said.