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Political blog, April 21: Carpenters and the politics of envy

I don’t know many carpenters but I suspect they have not previously considered themselves to be as well remunerated as council chief executives.

However, this is the interesting thesis that is outlined in a letter penned by KCC leader Paul Carter that has been published in the Daily Telegraph, in which he defends the £255,000 salary paid to the authority’s chief executive Peter Gilroy.

In it, he suggests that when you look at the increase in average earnings of carpenters and teachers compared to those of council chiefs, they aren’t too badly off.

In the letter, which decried “the politics of envy” he suggested that when you compared the average earnings increase over 30 years, carpenters had seen average earnings increase ten times; secondary headteachers nine times but council chief executives only eight times (poor things).

Now, I’m not sure about the statistics – which have already been disputed by the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

But the notion that somehow this issue can be spun in a way which engenders some sympathy for council chief executives by comparing them as poor relations to carpenters or teachers is certainly open to question. Bank bosses, maybe.

I do know several secondary heads who would feel rather offended by the comparison, given their workload and pressure. And while I don’t number any carpenters among my friends, I’d be equally surprised if they felt they were in any way better off than well-paid chief executives and other senior council officials on six-figure salaries, gold-plated pensions and assorted bonuses and other perks.

It seems I’m not alone, judging by the rather withering response of other Daily Telegraph correspondents – among them the former Conservative MP for Maidstone Sir John Wells, who said: “Many Kent taxpayers think the chief executive was overpaid in 1979 and still is now.”

And as one carpenter writes: “I have been a bricklayer for 30 years, and I do not know of anyone in the industry earning the £40,000 Mr Carter claims. If he could tell me where I can earn £800 per week, I will be on the site at 7.30am, along with the rest of my chaps.”

You can see the correspondence here

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