UK

City workers say 'wealth gap too wide'

  • 7 November 2011
  • From the section UK
City of London skyline
The scale of bankers' pay is a controversial issue with the general public

Many City workers feel the gap between rich and poor in the UK is too great, according to a report by a think-tank.

The St Paul's Institute report, Value and Values: Perceptions of Ethics in the City Today, said 75% of respondents thought the wealth divide was too big.

The findings were based on a survey in August of 515 financial professionals.

The think-tank is linked to St Paul's Cathedral, in London, where protesters against corporate greed have been demonstrating since 15 October.

An offshoot of the Occupy Movement, which began on Wall Street in New York, the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters have been camping in the cathedral's churchyard.

Meanwhile, about 50 demonstrators have gathered outside Guildhall, in the City of London, to protest about the low wages of cleaners.

The scale of bankers' pay, and the ethics of modern capitalism, is a controversial issue.

'Paid too much'

Respondents to the survey, which was conducted by market research company ComRes between August 30 and September 12, were questioned about the ethics of their salaries and bonuses, corporate social responsibility, and the history of the financial services sector.

The majority of those surveyed said they believe that bankers, stock brokers, FTSE 100 chief executives, lawyers and city bond traders are paid too much.

Two-thirds of respondents told researchers that "salary and bonuses" was the most important motivation for financial services professionals, with "enjoyment of work" coming a distant second.

Meanwhile, a former senior banker is to lead an initiative aimed at helping the City to reconnect with its moral foundations.

The research was commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the financial Big Bang - the deregulation of the London Stock Market in 1986.

Canon Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral Rev Michael Hampel said: "Action is a crucial goal of the protest camp outside St Paul's Cathedral.

"We hope that the telling findings of this report can provide a solid foundation for future engagement and highlight issues where action might be of mutual concern for all sides of the debate."

The publication of the report was postponed after the resignation of the cathedral's canon chancellor over the protest camp outside the church.

Three clerics from the cathedral have resigned their posts amid controversy related to the protest.

'Spiritual dimension'

Ken Costa, an Anglican church warden, has been asked by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres to start a dialogue about ethical capitalism.

Mr Costa, a former chairman of Lazard International, discussed the dilemmas faced by City workers in a BBC interview.

"We split up the human person and said look you're only a financial person, try and get financial returns, and forgot that there was ethical and a spiritual dimension to humans as well," he said.

"We've seen huge levels of stress. We've seen judgements that have had to be made without much wisdom, and we've seen a departure from the framework that the prime minister told us moral capitalism needed."

Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser
Reverend Dr Giles Fraser resigned from his post at St Paul's Cathedral last month

Mr Costa, who helps to promote the Alpha Course introduction to the Christian faith, was expanding on similar observations he made in the Sunday Telegraph, where he argued that the finance industry had lost sight of the need to do good.

In the paper, he argued that the market economy had lost "its moral foundations with disastrous consequences".

Meanwhile, the former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, who resigned rather than see protesters evicted by force, has described his experience as "distressing" but said he feels he has been "fully supported" by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When asked whether he liked being the "poster boy" for the anti-capitalist movement, Reverend Dr Giles Fraser replied: "I feel uncomfortable about it."

He told an audience at the BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival, in Gateshead, how his decision to resign had been a calm and straightforward one, adding that he did not regret the move.

Dr Fraser resigned on 27 October and the dean of St Paul's Cathedral, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, resigned four days later, saying his position had become untenable.

Part-time chaplain Fraser Dyer has also stepped down.

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