Salaries: transparent or private?

The coalition today publishes the salaries of the top civil servants who earn more than the Prime Minister, and claims it is good for transparency.

Now I was brought up in an era when discussing what people earned was infra dig. In many companies, you weren’t allowed to tell anyone else what your salary was.  How much money you earn is a private matter. So has the Government breached the privacy of the civil servants whose salaries it has published?  I think there’s a very good case that it has, and I think that publishing the salaries of people lower down the scale is unnecessary. It smacks of tribal politics again.

More to the point, I don’t think it adds much to transparency. The fact that MoD civil servants (on a revolving door with BAE…) get more than the Treasury ones is a smoking gun we should be picking up, but even this doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t know already.  It’s the contracts with BAE that are truly corrupt, not the salaries the civil servants get.

The coalition has promised to publish all government contracts over £25,000 in value; which is very good news if it happens. But they’ve taken the easy route and published salaries first. I suspect that they’ll find it much harder to publish the full details of existing commercial contracts, because it is very likely that these contracts contain confidentiality clauses. How many contracts has the government entered into since the coalition took office? Are there any such contracts containing confidentiality agreements? I think we should be told.

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