On Wednesday 6 October, as Boris Johnson stood on a stage in Manchester and promised to introduce a “big generational change” that had been “shirked” by his predecessors regardless of a single policy outline, His government was busy cutting the benefits back to the lowest. level since 1990. Removing £20 a week for Universal Credit, launched to support the lowest-income people through the pandemic, would mean taking more than £1,000 a year from 4.4 million households. It will affect 8.6 million people, including 3.5 million children, a group that by definition has no agency to influence the financial situation of their families. Just as inflation has reached its highest level since the financial crisis, Rishi Sunak’s Treasury has decided that it is the right time to deprive one lakh families of 10th of their income overnight.Keep all of that in mind, as you assume this was the week a senior Tory Backbencher decided to tell new statesman that MPs needed a pay increase, as living on a salary of only £81,932 was “serious”. Peter Botley said, “I believe you have the greatest honor to be an MP.” ns UK editor Anush Chakelian. “But a general practitioner in politics should be paid the same amount as a general practitioner in medicine.”
In fact, he argues, the complexities of MPs’ lifestyles – two houses and so forth – mean they should actually be paid more. The average GP salary in England is £100,700: to achieve the same standard of living, Bottomley argues that MPs should be paid £110,000–115,000. Right now, they are struggling for just two and a half times the average income. As far as his junior colleagues are concerned, “I don’t know how they manage,” he says.
I don’t want to go overboard too much on Bottomley, who comes across as a gentle, thoughtful type, and who takes the idea – clearly not fashionable in the contemporary Tory party – that an MP’s job is to help people. Is. (He also thinks that the Universal Credits cut should have been introduced more gently, although, surprisingly, he does not speak forcefully against it.)
And in this country we have a bad habit of talking about public sector salaries in a vacuum, as if the salaries of those who work for the state can be agreed without reference to the salaries of those who don’t. . In fact, of course, the ridiculous salaries paid at the upper end of the BBC are driven by even more ridiculous people on offer commercial broadcasters; If you insist that public pay should be kept low, but private sector people are allowed to soar, the inevitable result will be people, talent and ideas moving from state to industry . This may at first glance seem less of an issue in Parliament than some of the more technical bits of the civil service, but it is a concern nonetheless.
So let’s go with Bottomley’s view, and consider the possibility that lawmakers should be paid more like GPs. What would it actually look like?
In 2004, the Blair government introduced a new GP contract, promising to reward family doctors – most of whom are, technically, private contractors – based on how much work they did. The new system quantified paid practices, based on how many patients they had and how much care those patients needed. In addition, it included a sort of bonus plan, quality and outcome framework, in which they would receive additional funding for meeting certain goals (screening for special circumstances, say). This, the ministers thought, would provide them with a mechanism for driving reform.
All the result was huge unplanned pay increases of 30 percent or more for many GPs, followed by some mild political panic because it shouldn’t have happened. The family doctor was much better at hitting those targets than the ministers expected. The financial incentive, it turned out, worked.
Can a similar system be used to encourage better performance among MPs? Polly McKenzie, CEO of Demos suggested Linking MPs’ salaries to the amount of work they actually do to encourage participation in debates or selection committees or organizing weekly constituency surgeries.
There’s a precedent for this – how local councilors are paid isn’t a million miles away – but I wonder if it’s too complicated stuff. Perhaps we should instead just link MP salary to household income, so that they can become rich only when the public is also rich. How can we define those incomes – mean, median, minimum? Well, it would depend on what we hope to achieve.
Such performance-related pay can provide a useful deterrent to the kind of complacency about flagging household income that many lawmakers have shown over the past decade. At least, they can think twice before voting to make the poorest families poorer.