In Parliament

It’s back to number crunching. As the new parliamentary session is overwhelmed by the enormity of the Scottish referendum, some of the heat is being diverted to totting up totals, ranging from tree felling to salaries, reports Catherine Paice.

Who earns what is fascinating, not least because it has infuriatingly little to do with sloth or endeavour, education or skill, age or experience, right or reason. Core DEFRA personnel earn up to £164,999 a year, according to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Dan Rogerson (Lib Dem, North Cornwall). The disclosure was prompted by a question from Gareth Thomas (Lab Co-op, Harrow West), Shadow Minister for Europe and chairman of the Co-operative Party, which is committed to co-operative principles and is affiliated to the Labour Party.

These top earners are earning 3% more than they might have four years ago – the top salary band is only £5,000 higher now than it was then. Once you leave the telephone number salaries, things perk up a bit. The lowest DEFRA salary is a relatively paltry £15,980, but it is 5% higher than it was in 2010-11.

As for DEFRA agencies (in case any readers are planning a career in the civil service), salaries at AHVLA start at just under £15,700; VMD at £19,800; CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) at £14,500, the research agency and licence-issuer FERA at almost £20,000 (celebrating its centenary and up by a third since 2010-11); and the shiny new-look RPA at £16,450.

Back at the top, civil servants on the highest rung of the RPA ladder have the same £160,000-£164,999 salary bracket as those in core DEFRA, followed by AHVLA (£130,000-£134,999); VMD (£115,000 to £119,999), FERA (£110,000 to £114,999) and CEFAS (£80,000 to £84,999).

While we are playing with numbers, for those who want to navigate the best route through the corridors of Whitehall to York and back, you can deduce from these figures that CEFAS and FERA starters earn an encouraging 17% of the top potential salary in these agencies, VMD offers 16.5%, AHVLA 12%, RPA 10% and, lastly, DEFRA with 9% of the top potential departmental wage packet.

Still with remuneration, the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee last week declared that councils must act to stop future excessive pay rises for senior council staff. After dramatic 75% pay rises for senior staff in the first decade of this century, the vast majority of councils have kept more of a lid on their pay. In a new report (Local Government Chief Officers’ Remuneration) the committee urges councils to take action to ensure there is no return to these inflation-busting increases as economic conditions improve.

Councils must also seek better market information to make sure they are not paying over the odds and develop more robust appraisal systems to get value for money from their top staff, they were told. Will that ever include spending less on pensions, we wonder? It is action by local communities that has tended to be effective in halting excessive pay rises in the past.

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