Setting an example on pay

30th January, 2012 12:14 pm

It’s ironic that, despite the Coalition Government’s deafening silence on the pay of bankers, they have been very quick to raise the temperature on public sector pay. Plenty of accusations of fat cat public sector managers have been thrown around by Ministers who have been far less condemnatory of the telephone number salaries of those in the private sector. 

Labour values give us a desire to increase the standard of living for everyone but in tough economic conditions we have to make difficult choices. As the largest employer in Newcastle, the Council has a major influence on the economic wellbeing of the city, and can have a direct impact on levels of inequality. We want to do all in our power to make Newcastle a fairer city. Over a number of decades income inequality in the UK has increased and pay inequality has become a national issue.


At a recent policy Cabinet meeting local people made it clear that inequality is an issue of concern in our City today. And instead of just talking about the issue, we are acting to close the gap between the lowest paid and the highest paid within the Council.


We are doing this because, while pay is important to individuals, it is fairness of pay overall which is of most importance. The Council’s ratio of pay at the top to pay at the bottom is currently 1:13. This is below the national average of 1:15 in the public sector and 1: 262 in the private sector. We are committed to further reducing this ratio where possible in the future, by introducing a Living Wage to boost the pay of those who are on the lowest salaries. Not only is this a way of helping people at a time when living costs are escalating, it’s a great way of making sure more money goes into the local economies where such low paid workers live.

What the debate has revealed in Newcastle, however, is that average Council pay is lower than that the average pay of the city as a whole. Many staff I have spoken to about this say that pay is only part of the reward for working at the City Council. The Council offers a whole range of benefits including family friendly and flexible working, learning and development opportunities, holiday buy-back, alongside schemes such as car and bike salary sacrifice arrangements. Many people choose to work in the public sector because they believe in public service and pay is only one element of their remuneration, alongside job satisfaction.

This week I am delighted to publish our pay policy, and in doing so make a firm statement about our commitment to reducing inequality and how we are leading by example in the way we run the Council. But the danger is that those organisations who are most open about their policies come under the greatest scrutiny. We need a national debate around the most appropriate way to judge pay and remuneration, according to responsibility and job satisfaction. A greater understanding of the pay differentials that operate in different sectors is a good place to start.

Nick Forbes is the Leader of Newcastle City Council

  • Old Holborn

    Nick Forbes earns £160500 per annum, after helping himself to a £5K pay increase. Nearly £20K MORE than the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Up the workers, eh, Nick?

    • Guest

      Nick Forbes isn’t the CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Newcastle City Council. So he doesn’t get the £165500 you refer to. The last leader of the council got £23,750.47. 

      At least get the facts right…

    • Dave Postles

      Oops – eight idiots – anyone else?

  • George Powell

    Please don’t forget Nick, you don’t add value.

  • living on the bread line

    As long as there are 10+ applicant for every job the inequality will remain. with the unions crippled by legislation the only thing stopping wages gowing even lower is the minimum wage. I for one have my fingers and toes crossed that this government doesn’t remove this legislation  in an attempt to ‘boost’ the private sector and reduce the unemployment figures.

  • Anonymous

    Well  labour had this idea about cutting poverty   for the middle class.

  • GuyM

    Public sector pay is in the hands of the government and local authorities.

    Private sector pay is nothing to do with government and local authorities.

    You have two options, let the market decide on pay rates for skills, or centrally mandate pay rates. I doubt most of the population would like the latter option in practice.

    You list reasons why people work in the public sector. May I list one reason why I and others work in the private sector? The reason is that it isn’t the public sector.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent piece- especially first part.

    Thanks, Jo.

  • charles.ward

    The ratio is not 1:262 in the private sector, that is the estimated ratio from incomplete data from the FTSE 100, the 100 biggest companies in the country. 

    I would guess that the ratio in the whole of the private sector might be lower than the public sector.  There are a lot of small businesses where the ratio would be small and, of course, for the self employed the ratio would be 1:1.  Anyone have data for the whole of the private sector.

  • JC

    Why not take it a little further and abolish the national pay levels by paying local rates? You’d be able to reduce unemployment by taking on more staff, or reduce the council tax.

  • Pingback: Weekly Round up 02/02/2012 « North East Child Poverty()


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