In April next year MPs will get a massive pay rise. It was decided by an independent body, not the public or MPs themselves, so it must be fair, right?
No, it’s really not. And here’s why.
Their salaries are going up more than 10%. This comes as the population as a whole has had below-inflation pay rises of around 1.7% (1.3% if you don’t include bonuses), which let’s not forget are effectively pay cuts, considering prices have gone up by 2%.
This is a time when millions of workers are feeling pretty peeved that while the recession is *technically* over, many people are working more for less money, and what we do earn doesn’t go as far as it did last year or the year before.
Our pay vs MPs’ pay
Since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2007, both our pay rises and those of MPs have had trouble keeping up with inflation, the rising prices of day to day items.
The graph below shows how much the general population’s pay has risen, as a percentage of what we were earning in 2007, not taking inflation into account. So our 2013 salaries were just over 12% more than they were in 2007, and MPs salaries were only just over 7% more.
So on the whole, we’ve had bigger pay rises each year by percentage than MPs.
That is until 2015, when MPs are set to overtake us as their 10.4% pay rise kicks in. Rounded up, they’ll be earning 20% more than they were before the recession began.
Looking at the graph, you may think we’re not far behind, at 19%. And you’d be right – however the graph is based on the predictions of what we’ll be earning in 2014 and 2015 made by the Office for Budget Responsibility all the way back in March.
Unfortunately, since the OBR made those predictions, wages have fared much worse than everyone thought they would. I’m no economist but I think it’s clear that when the Office for National Statistics publishes its provisional data for 2014 in November, the figures will be much more conservative and the OBR is likely to revise its earnings predictions down for 2015.
But even based on these high predictions of what we’ll be earning, MPs will still have had a bigger pay rise than the average Joe or Josephine by next year.
What does this really mean?
In money terms, MPs will be better off by £6,940 a year, while we’ll earn an extra £913 (less if OBR predictions are revised down).
They’ll be earning 2.6 times the UK average wage and a whopping 5.5 times the National Minimum Wage.
Attracting the best candidates
Defending the huge rise, Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which set the £74,000 salary, said it was at the “low end” (!!!) compared to some public sector salaries and needed to be that size to attract the best candidates.
This, frankly, is absolute rubbish.
There are some jobs that exist in society that people are attracted to for other reasons than money. Nursing, teaching, even journalism attract people who want to make a difference, not people who want to earn a ton of money, and that’s the way it should be for MPs.
Of course MPs should earn a fair salary being our representatives, but it should be not so far from the average salary that they lose the common ground they have with the people they’re supposed to represent.
Yes, some of them are required to make big decisions, but the ministers who do so are already well-rewarded for that by earning nearly double, currently £134,565.
Putting aside expenses, which is another discussion altogether, the previous system where MPs decided on their own pay did work, because they had to think of a bloody good reason to afford themselves a pay rise.
Cynically, I expect, passing the responsibility for pay to IPSA, which MPs did in 2011, meant washing their hands of the pay process at the same time as making it appear more democratic, while knowing they would receive healthy increases with less scrutiny.
Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it when MPs had to fight for a pay rise.
Thankfully, Chancellor George Osborne and a number of other MPs have condemned the rise, and here’s hoping some common sense will kick in at IPSA before it happens.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @robynvinter