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Thursday 16 June 2011

TPA – The Mail Job That’s Not Alpha

Things are clearly getting desperate among the non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA): today brought another loudly trumpeted piece of “research, which is the result of yet another time and money wasting Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expedition, this time concerning Royal Mail.

Whatever the state of the group’s pension liabilities, all the Royal Mail companies were profitable in 2008-9. Royal Mail is a Public Limited Company, although the shares are at present all held by the Government. So, despite its public ownership, taxpayers do not directly fund the company, and so do not pay its staff costs.

This can be ascertained by doing a few minutes’ Googling, or bringing up the Royal Mail entry on Wikipedia. But this basic level of research was clearly beyond head TPA non-job holder Matthew Sinclair, who has asserted that employee costs are “costing taxpayers” money. So why make the claim?

The TPA has found that a number of Royal Mail employees are considered “surplus”. What does this mean? Well, after reorganisations, a number of staff get redeployed, but on occasion some do not immediately find a new role. It does not, however, mean that they aren’t doing anything, merely that they don’t have a current job title.

How many are involved? In the latest financial year, there were 287 of them. This looks like a big number – and that’s the thrust of the TPA’s argument – until you consider that Royal Mail employs around 176,000 people. So the TPA is whingeing over 0.2% of the workforce, and even then, no evidence is brought forward to even suggest that these employees are not gainfully employed.

So the TPA claim that the 287 employees are “potentially costing taxpayers over £8 million a year” is bogus and dishonest. That an organisation as large as the Royal Mail has reorganisations, with some staff taking time to find other roles, is not unique, not news, and as it translates to a mere 0.2% of the workforce, cannot be credibly claimed to be wasteful.

Moreover, the TPA have effectively guessed the numbers for employee costs, by assuming those classed as “surplus” are paid the median gross annual public sector salary. As this figure includes the Civil Service, and the Royal Mail employs a significant proportion of lower paid manual workers, the estimated figures are likely to be higher than the actual values.

In conclusion, this is staggeringly dishonest, even by the characteristically low standards of the TPA. The only waste on show is the TPA’s FoI fishing expedition, no wrongdoing has been exposed, and the only product of the exercise will be a few column inches in the more desperate papers. Matthew Sinclair and his well paid colleagues ought to go and get themselves proper jobs.

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