The amount of by-product emanating from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) had dropped recently, which usually means that there is another of their “reports” on the way, and so it has proved: today has brought the “Town Hall Rich List” for 2012, pretentiously categorised as “new research”, which of course it is not. It is the result of yet another Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expedition.
More from the Comfortable of Tufton Street
And the misinformation starts at the very beginning, as readers are told “3,097 council staff earning over £100k”. Really? Not really: this is a record of “all those whose remuneration exceeds £100,000”. That’s not the same thing. The TPA gets its figures by including pension contributions and expenses, the latter being reimbursement for costs incurred in doing the job.
Moreover, the TPA is trying to play the pension game both ways: if this is down to what the individual earns, they shouldn’t be simultaneously telling that pension costs are something separate – but of course they are, as I noted recently. And one number is missing from the “report”: the proportion of employees on higher salary levels. So what might that be?
Well, there are over two million local Government employees in the UK. So the TPA’s figure of just over 3,000 is just 0.15% of the total. But the TPA are wise to the art of selective reporting, and that with so many employed overall, even a number between one-tenth and one-fifth of one per cent can look big. And making numbers look big is what secures the press coverage.
Additionally, to make the big numbers look yet bigger, redundancy payments are added in, making it look as if there are even more employees earning over £100k. Then, to round it all off, all those identified are smeared as “fat cats”, as opposed to the banking sector – massively state subsidised of late – where those on obscenely high deals are lauded as “wealth creators”.
And the press coverage is suitably generous: at the Maily Telegraph, Christopher Hope – who should hang his head in shame for the cheap false equivalence – tells of “council workers receiving more than the Prime Minister”. Young Dave’s total remuneration – that’s the TPA rubric – is over £500k. The Express goes with “How Pay Is Booming For Town Hall Fat Cats”.
The Mail’s Steve Doughty – the same hack we saw talking guff about the BBC recently – merely trots out the TPA line unquestioningly, while Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun pull the “Prime Minister’s salary” one, as well as a wave of pejorative language: “coining it ... surging salaries ... raking in ... trousering”. Thus the TPA’s work of demonising Government is done for them.
But as journalism, this copy doesn’t cut it. And that’s not good enough.