Government ‘fat cats’ are a myth, says Chief Minister

Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK

Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK

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Claims about ‘fat cat’ civil servants are misplaced, the Chief Minister has insisted.

Allan Bell was responding to comments made in Tynwald last week about the growth in the number of high earners in government.

The issue was raised by backbench Michael MHK Alfred Cannan.

The court heard that the 759 government staff earned above £50,000 a year in 2011 but by March this year that figure had grown to 813. Mr Bell pointed out there had been pay increases of about 1-2 per cent each year to most staff groups, as well as increases based on incremental progression through the grades.

But Mr Cannan asked the Chief Minister if he was surprised that there were 16 more people earning more than £200,000 between 2011 and 2015, nine more earning over £175,000, 10 more people earning over £100,000 and six more people over £75,000.

He said: ‘I am interested to know why we have 25 more people earning more than £175,000 and where exactly those individuals have come from.’

Mr Bell told the Examiner that of the 22 earning over £200,000 in March 2015, 21 were medical professionals – and nearly every single one a consultants at the hospital. Of the 36 earning £150,000 to £200,000, 30 are medical staff.

He said: ‘Nearly all government high earners are medical professionals. This should put in context the fallacious statements about these all being fat cat civil servants earning huge sums of money.

‘Nearly all are in fact medical professionals. Consultants are in short supply and we have to be competitive in the salaries we pay.’

Mr Bell said without specialist staff to reduce waiting lists, patients would have to be flown to Liverpool for off-island treatment – at even greater cost.

‘The debate needs to be calmed down and put into context,’ he insisted.

Figures for staff remuneration, listed in the latest government annual accounts, shows that one person received between £300,000 and £324,999 as at the end of March this year. One received between £275,000 and £299,999, two received between £250,000 and £274,999, four pocketed between £225,000 and £249,999 and 14 received between £200,000 and £224,999. Those figures include compensation payments under early retirement packages.

But Mr Cannan said: ‘I just cannot accept we are employing 25 more staff on salaries above £175k than we did in 2011 without a clear understanding of the reasons behind the increase. I find it hard to believe this is all down to the Health Service and so I have asked the Cabinet Office for an assessment of the departments and boards that have increased staff at these levels.’

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