More than 9,000 people working in the public sector earn more than the prime minister’s £142,500 ($220,875) a year, according to the most extensive analysis to date of senior public sector pay.
Some 38,000 public sector staff earn more than £100,000 a year and about 1,000 earn more than £200,000, the analysis shows. Two family doctors have total earnings above £475,000, two head teachers earn more than £230,000, and 10 are paid more than £150,000.
The figures have been compiled on a database by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the BBC’s Panorama program, due for broadcast on Monday night. The bureau, using 2,400 freedom of information requests, asked all public sector bodies for details of salaries above £100,000 a year.
Eight senior police officers earn more than £200,000, according to the results, and 45 earn more than David Cameron, topped by Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, on £280,489 last year.
Some 352 people in local government top Mr Cameron’s salary, with 10 senior council officers earning over £222,000, led by the £299,925 paid last year to Gerald Jones, Wandsworth council’s chief executive.
Some 6,500 in the NHS are also paid more than Mr Cameron, according to the analysis, including 1,465 GPs, some 10 of whom earn more than £300,000.
The database includes the BBC, where 97 managers earn over £160,000 and 10 have total remuneration of more than £328,000 a year.
It excludes some government businesses and financial regulators such as Network Rail, Crossrail and the Financial Services Authority, which act more like independent businesses, but they are also in the public sector and some have highly paid chief executives.
The coalition has ruled that any central government pay above the prime minister’s will need Treasury approval. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, told Panorama “You don’t need to pay stupendous amounts to get good people. The public service ethos is very important. People will come and work in a public sector for salaries that aren’t competitive in a private sector sense”.
The large numbers who are paid more than Mr Cameron in part reflects his decision to take a 5 per cent pay cut on the £150,000 that Gordon Brown was receiving when he left office, although until January Mr Brown was paid £197,000 a year. On that basis, this time last year, about 1,000 people were being paid more than the prime minister, Iain Overton, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said.
A key question is how far the government can make the £142,500 benchmark for top public sector pay stick. Since the general election, Peter Housden, the permanent secretary for local government, transferred to the Scottish government on his existing salary of more than £175,000.
His replacement, Sir Bob Kerslake, is being paid £170,000, while Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, approved a salary of £176,000 for Rob Vincent, the chief executive parachuted into Doncaster council.
Mr Pickles vetoed a £240,000 salary for a chief executive of the Audit Commission, now to be abolished, but its interim chief is on almost £200,000.
Robert Chote is receiving £142,500 to head the Office of Budget Responsibility. Ministers have cut the advertised pay for a chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to £120,000, and the Pension’s Regulator has advertised for a part-time chairman at a rate equivalent to £142,500 a year.
However, ministers do not directly control local government, and Liverpool is advertising for a chief executive on up to £197,500, although that is a reduction on the previous salary.