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Danny Alexander photoscoop: what does "action on pay mean"

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Paul Mason | 16:22 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Danny Alexander has fallen foul of the Nikkor 400mm lens problem in Whitehall, leaving his briefing notes open for the snappers to snap.

For me the most interesting part of the note is the issue of public sector pay. The notes are briefing notes, not a list of measures: so they contain arguments for ministers to use.

One is: "Action on pay will minimise the job losses..."

The Guardian takes this to be the existing action on pay - namely a pay freeze, saving £3.3bn.

But it prompts in my mind a further question. Is the government planning further "action" on public sector pay in the form of an actual pay cut? This would be par for the course compared to other European governments. Ireland, Spain and Greece have all imposed actual pay cuts in the public sector, using a similar argument to the one in the line above on Alexander's document - namely that pay had risen above that of the private sector.

We'll find out tomorrow, but in excess of 490,000 job losses will bring a heavy toll of redundancy payments. One way around this would be to propose an across the board pay cut to mitigate the job losses.

If only Mr Alexander had left the correct page open for the snappers we would not have to wait until tomorrow.


  • Comment number 1.

    Two extremes are suggested to me:

    a) Any pol dumb, with minders cowed enough to expose anything unintentionally to the glare of hi-tech scrutiny in the public domain these days, is either on par with a box of rocks intellectually or a security threat that needs immediate shutting down, or...

    b) Any medium that decides these things are any more than a slightly more perverse PR game than that played weekly by Simon Cowell's latest 'spat' or a lady TV show presenter's limo exiting undergarment neglect, is pulling many other ones or on a par, brains-wise, with the pols in a) above.

    I'm going b), as most Graun readers managed pretty quick.

    But it's always good to get the BBC analysis of what they get from the Graun. In every sense.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have suggested in past posts that the difficulties of widespread redundancies would make cuts difficult to achieve quickly and to generate the planned savings. Voluntary redundancy is often found to be a double edged sword - cuts are achieved in statistical terms, but the best usually choose to take the money and run reappearing within a few months as consultants as the wheels come off operations.
    Pay cuts would be a way forward as alternative to widespread redundancies but the public sector is unionised and the negotiation would be a hellish long process. Factor in too, the fact that public sector pensions depend on final year salaries so acceptance of a pay cut would build in a reduction of pension in the long run.
    The better measure to adopt would be to reduce overmanning, incompetence, absenteeism. My sources in the public sector suggest some employees are completely out of control, get passed around to jobs for which they have no direct skills to perform and fail to turn up to work, to meetings without any reason, apology or communication. It breaks my heart to think of honest working people losing their jobs, whilst these problems of crass bad mangement are not addressed.
    We could be lucky and "Action on pay will minimise the job losses..." may refer to the bankers.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think it is perefectly logical for the Government to go to the Public Sector and say:

    "Look, the situation is dire, we are on our own, we're completely surrounded and we are running out of time..!" Oops, that is a line from the film 'The Battle of Britain'.

    OK, I think it is perefectly logical for the Government to go to the Public Sector and say;

    "Look, half a million of you can lose your jobs OR you can all take a 20% pay cut today to guarantee your job... meaning you won't be on the dole, you won't have to sign on and be tortured by the new Benefits' Police, especially if you used to work in the dole office, and you will just be able to keep paying your mortgage, buy some food and occasionally heat your home..."

    Or something like that.

    In fact, it makes a lot of economic sense... Eire, Greece, Spain have all done this and, as bitter as it was to endure for the Public Sector workers, a pay cut and keeping your job is better than no job at all... especially when benefits are about to be drastically slashed...

    But I doubt many Public Sector workers will see it that way... but I would tip my hat, if I had one, to Cameron and Clegg if they had the balls to announce this.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pay cuts as oppose to redundancy does not make much sense in this country anyway (not sure about those that have gone before us in Europe).

    The uk has created so many futile government 'non jobs' pay cuts are in effect paying people less to dig a hole and then fill it in again (repeat ad-infinitum), it does not address the issue that there was no value in digging the hole in the first place.

    As a recent recipient of 'restructuring' myself you have to be cruel to be kind in the long run.

  • Comment number 5.


    Yeah - plan B Junkk.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think there is a need for some kind of new reality TV show. A bunch of Public Sector workers weekly have go compete for either keeping their job, being fired or taking a 20% pay-cut.

    Private Sector workers will be allowed to vote via text and phone with the winner of the entire series being allowed to negotiate contracts for aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles.

  • Comment number 7.


    I think you could be onto something there.

    Perhaps it could be called the Axe factor.

    Not dissimilar to this really

  • Comment number 8.

    The public sector pay freeze which is already augmented by local freezes effects a hefty pay cut when inflation is running around 5%, A cap on six figure exec pay is likely to get some cheers from public sector workers. An across the board pay cut in addition to inflation will deliver a big hit on demand in the economy and incentivise much greater interest in industrial action. Maybe a change in the law will be needed to avoid legal action against employers imposing worse terms and conditions unilaterally. This is very significant in local government/education where are hundreds of employers contrasted with civil servants employed directly by the state.
    A winter of discontent seems inevitable.

  • Comment number 9.

    At least the first-born will be spared... "Sorry? What's that about sterilization?"

  • Comment number 10.

    Meanwhile, is Bank of America about to go under and bring about a second global baking crisis?

  • Comment number 11.

    Some useful (orientating) statistics given points made about the role of the public vs private se4ctors in the economy and credit crisis due to deregulation (who regulates but the public sector?).:

    "The number of people in employment aged 16 and over...29.16 million."

    "Public sector employment decreased by 22,000 (seasonally adjusted) in the second quarter of 2010 to 6.051 million.

    Employment in central government decreased by 16,000 and local government decreased by 7,000. Employment in public corporations increased by 1,000.

    The number of employees in the Civil Service decreased by 5,000 from the previous quarter to 523,000.

    Employment in the private sector increased by 308,000 in the second quarter"

    Is everyone getting the bigger picture?

    "Danny Alexander has fallen foul of the Nikkor 400mm lens problem in Whitehall, leaving his briefing notes open for the snappers to snap."

    Give the fluid complementing between the media and Westminster/Whitehall, this was no accident, so they were just testing the waters..

  • Comment number 12.

    Let's just work on the principle that he was boning up on the details before a meeting and forgot to shut his book in time.

    What I do find fascinating is that these briefing notes were printed up and presented in a nice booklet format. This isn't notes: it's a publication.

    Given the interest why don't they flog copies through TSO? Might earn a few bob. Now that is an oxymoron: a politician earning his living.

  • Comment number 13.

    Only 16% cuts for the BBC - why I could save 50% in a few minutes!

    ps it amazes me that people think that document was exposed on purpose. The civil service and government can't coordinate buying aircraft carriers and fighter jets. They can't do this but they do bother to give a peek at a doc in case someone has a tele-lens? Why is incompetence never taken as the default, rather than all these crazy conspiracy theories?

  • Comment number 14.

    I think there should be an investigation into who signed the aircraft carrier contracts that made it impossible for us to get out of them - if you spend billions on something the get-out clauses in a contract should be in your favour.

    I think the people have a right to know the names of which politicians and which mandarins negotiated and signed the carrier contracts - and what they are doing now? I hope they are not now involved, in any way, with any of the firms that are building the carriers?

  • Comment number 15.

    For those who don't do maths, consider the relative sizes of the Public vs Private sectors in the above post, and the tiny size of the Civil Service relative to the Private Sector. Think grandiosity and sinecure, and how deregulation came about over a long public to private transition
    (reform: evolution not revolution).

    Next, bear in mind how it's put in The Independent, noting the use of 'does not' and 'cannot' instead of won't: I've been point out that that's the libertarianism which 'we' voted for, that's the left-wing communism (anarchism) which we voted for. Most won't see this as they now live in a world of words and definitions, not actions - oddly radical behaviourism was all but banned well over a decade ago (remember the paragraph quoted by Debtjuggler from Herrnstein 1990? - probably not.).

    Many who believe themselves to be quite bright today appear to be have had their development arrested (manifesting as narcissism which is core to a cluster of Personality/Identity Disorders). This is marked by self-centred solipsism/individualism,.and from the data, I suggest the recent massive expansion of education (education, education) has been instrumental in facilitating that in ways beyond most people's Lysenkoist dreamworld.

    Today, in the Independent on 'Axe Wednesday':

    "You can look at this in two ways. You can see it as a course correction, a violent one to be sure, but one essentially made necessary by past errors. This is the idea that we have to get back on track, that doing so will be painful, but that when we do all will be hunky dory. Or you can see it as something quite new, the early stumbling stages along a path towards redefining the role of government itself – what the state in a Western society does for its citizens, and what it does not or indeed cannot do.

    Both views are valid enough but I suspect that in 10 or 20 years' time we will see the events of today more in terms of the latter and more dynamic perspective......

    Some numbers. During the past 25-30 years government tax revenues have peaked at around 38 per cent of GDP. Governments of both main parties have sometimes sought to increase the tax take a little but have not succeeded, usually because an economic slowdown cut receipts. But spending has hovered around 40 per cent of GDP, rising at present to some 48 per cent of GDP – hence the present gap of 11-12 per cent of GDP. Let's say, to keep things simple, that half of that gap will correct itself as the economy comes back to its full potential output.
    That still leaves another 6 per cent of GDP as the so-called structural deficit, that has to be eliminated. That is share of GDP, not share of public spending, so the cuts in the latter have to be much bigger, say
    12-15 per cent of spending. Since more money has to be set aside for extra interest and since some programmes, such as the NHS, are going on growing, the other cuts have to be bigger still."

    The Independent Axe Wednesday: The future starts here Hamish McRae Wednesday, 20 October 2010

  • Comment number 16.

    13. At 10:46am on 20 Oct 2010, Ben wrote:

    "Why is incompetence never taken as the default, rather than all these crazy conspiracy theories?"

    In case that isn't irony, let me explain. It's because it's textbook politics. Leaks are in fact an essential part of the entire PR business, as is appearing to be incompetent.

    The overall agenda has clearly been to make the state 'wither away' in favour of 'grass roots democracy' (i.e. libertarianism, anarchism - the Big Society, aka DIY in the 'Private Sector') and to make the likes of you discount any belief that this could possibly be a political strategy, as just a paranoid (crazy) 'conspiracy theory' which you should be ashamed of.

    Textbook political psychology.

  • Comment number 17.

    tabblenabble - I've not taken any input on what it said into my thinking on their political direction. I don't care what it said. Today we have the actual cuts data, not a bit of paper. I'll judge them on that, thanks.

    99% of people in the UK won't even know about that "leak". Most of the remaining 1% won't care. It's just a bridge for the papers to get over the finishing line.

  • Comment number 18.

    Many who believe themselves to be quite bright today appear to be have had their development arrested (manifesting as narcissism which is core to a cluster of Personality/Identity Disorders). This is marked by self-centred solipsism/individualism

    mate you are being too hard on yourself.

  • Comment number 19.

    18 Ben

    Can you use inverted commas when quoting someone else, please?

    I thought for a moment you had lost it there. It was a relief to read through to the end and find you still sane.

  • Comment number 20.

    yeah sorry, the joke was lazy and so was the post...

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank heavens for proper journalists like your colleague Mr. Marr, and not grubby bloggers.

  • Comment number 22.

    You know, simply citing the URL to a valid political blog, apparently visited by more BBC staff than any other grouping (and comparing it to the journalistic standards so awesomely espoused by such as respected broadcaster A. Marr), that also calls into question the 'scoop' nature of this image that has so excited WUVI's seems hardly rule-breaking, or even OT, considering.

    And that it wasn't pre-modded, but so soon got referred merely makes things... 'interesting'.

    Being a licence-fee paying stakeholder, I am entitled to express an opinion. Or does Ms. Boaden's latest 'instruction' extend beyond BBC staff now?

    Let's see what others think..


    I'm sure Mr. Tong has a word for how this is going down.


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