Outrage at City pay as bankers still pocket billions in bonuses

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis
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Anger over City pay was fuelled when figures showed that workers in the finance and insurance industries pocketed average bonuses of £12,000 in the last financial year.

The average bonuses paid out by the two sectors in the year to April was £1,500 lower than the previous 12 months, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But they still dwarfed the payouts in the economy as a whole, where the average bonus was £1,400.

These City windfalls accounted for 36 per cent of the £37bn of bonuses across the economy, even though just 4 per cent of total employees work in the finance and insurance industry. But the gap between City bonuses and those in the rest of the economy has narrowed, the report revealed.

Total bonuses received in the UK rose 3 per cent in the year, with most industries enjoying an average increase, helping push pay-outs in the non-financial sectors close to their pre-recession peaks.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It is a disgrace that the lure of big bonuses fuelled the recession and yet today’s figures show finance workers still bringing home more in bonuses than many public service workers get paid in a year.

“The pay freeze is having a devastating impact on the families of nurses, home care workers, paramedics, dinner ladies and millions more public service workers.

“At the other end of the spectrum the Government is happy to sit back and let the bonus culture go on. It is time to tackle this divided Britain and put an end to this damaging pay freeze.”

The reduction in City pay came after Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King called on banks to reduce payouts and hoard cash to help them deal with any further shocks from the financial crisis.

The banking sector has also hit harder times since the financial crisis, as profits have been impacted by economic weakness, a number of scandals such as rate fixing and mis-selling of payment protection insurance and a raft of new legislation.

The average bonus in the private sector was £1,700, which was more than five times the average public sector bonus of £300, although the ONS said public sector pay tends to be higher because the bonus culture is not so prevalent.

Public sector bonuses were pushed up by the part-nationalised banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds. Excluding financial services the average would have been £100.

Behind the finance and insurance industries, mining staff enjoyed the second highest average bonus payments of £6,900, an increase of nearly 10%.

The biggest rise in bonus payments was in the professional, scientific technical and communication industries.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “City bonuses remain unacceptably high, despite a small drop on last year.

“Ordinary workers struggling with falling real wages will wonder how the City has again managed to defy the recession and its own mediocre performance to dish out billions of pounds worth of bonuses.

“The £13 billion of bonuses awarded last year could be better spent on what banks are supposed to be doing - lending to small businesses and supporting economic growth.”

David Hillman, spokesman for the Robin Hood Tax campaign for a tax on financial transactions, said: “It’s outrageous that the banks continue to dole out billions in bonuses whilst they are knee-deep in insurance mis-selling and other scandals that ripped off the public.

“Bank bonuses may be lower than in previous years, but top bankers still seemingly exist in a parallel universe to everyone else.

“If the banks can afford to pay out such large sums, they can surely also afford to make a bigger contribution towards putting right the damage they’ve caused to our economy and society.”