The Great Debate UK

Election reality that dare not speak its name


– Neil Collins is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Since Labour came to power in 1997, it has pursued a policy of expanding the numbers employed by the government or its agencies. The result is that today 6.1 million people are on the state payroll, an increase of about 900,000 in 13 years.

They are also paid, if not well, then at least comfortably. The Office of National Statistics calculates that pay in the public sector is now higher than in the private sector (462 pounds and 451 pounds a week respectively). It’s also rising faster (3.7 percent, against 1.8 percent).

Add in greater job security and the final salary pension schemes which are almost extinct everywhere else, and it’s easy to see why those in a recession-wracked private sector are resentful. Yet in over 60 constituencies, more than a third of the workforce is on the state payroll. Apprehensive politicians see public sector employees, along with their families and their client base of welfare claimants, as a block vote.