Marks and ExSpensive - Democracy in action

As was reported last May, several shareholders’ groups dismissed large pay packages for their executives, the biggest revolt being at Shell – 60 per cent of investors voted down multi-million pound pay and bonuses to staff who had failed to meet targets. 


On Tuesday, investors sent a warning message to the bosses of M&S when nearly a fifth of their number refused to back a new remuneration deal for incoming Chief Executive, Marc Bolland. Incredulous thoughts must have crept through the minds of many of the 2,000 shareholders as they heard during their annual general meeting that Mr Bolland was to be offered a £15 million pay deal, because many of them voted against it. Although the opponents to the deal were not numerous enough to block the proposal, the point I wish to make is that in the private sector, shareholders have the means to express their disapproval at large pay packages like these.


I don’t own shares in any private companies, but like everyone reading this blog I do own shares in ‘UK plc’. UK plc has a large portfolio of assets including banks, student loan books, and vast swathes of land and much more to boot. It also has as much as £4 trillion worth of debts and liabilities, or if you split that between ‘shareholders’, about £65,000 each. The problem is we can’t really liquidise our ‘shares’ therefore we all have a pretty big stake in how UK plc performs. We need to make sure that top public servants (that manage OUR assets) aren’t being paid too much of our money.


Take Council Leader Lynne Hillan. To the fury of many people in Conservative-controlled Barnet, she has been awarded a 15 per cent increase (£40,893 to £47,027). Many of the council staff lower down the food chain in Barnet are enduring a two-year pay freeze and taxpayers’ are enduring higher taxes, pay-freezes/cuts and even job losses. The increase is small beer in budgetary terms, but not to the thousands of people that live and work in Barnet when nearly all will be cutting back.


The TaxPayers’ Alliance is keen to see a fully transparent system in the public sector where we can see how our money is being spent. The Town Hall Rich List and Public Sector Rich Lists that we publish, uncover many of the secrets that public sector bosses usually want to keep that way. Accountability follows transparency, and it is only then that we can restore trust.

By Nick Galvin

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