Outlook Those in the City tell me there’s nothing new in the fact that the Bank of England’s top press officer was paid £168,000 last year. Move along now.
It may not be “new” news – he was paid similarly in previous years – but it seems worthy of note that the man (who’s about to be replaced by a woman) paid to polish the reputation of Threadneedle Street gets nearly as much as those superbrains setting interest rates on the Monetary Policy Committee. Andy Haldane, one of the nine economists in the world deemed clever enough for an MPC post, gets only £20,000 more.
That nugget in today’s Bank of England annual report prompted a call to press officer chums in Whitehall for a scout around what other public sector PR mandarins charge us taxpayers. For “spokesmen”, they seemed less than communicative at first – no surprise when a journalist comes sniffing around your department’s wages, I suppose. But how their responses changed when I mentioned Nils Blythe’s wedge at the Bank of England.
“How much?!” blurted one. I was quickly, and rather angrily, urged to compare the former BBC man’s wages with those on an internal website used to advertise similar jobs in civil service departments.
Here are some: Head of News at the Department of Work and Pensions, “c£82,000”; Director of Communications at Environment Food and Rural Affairs’, “£84,000 to £110,000”; Defra Head of News, “up to £85,000”.
The DWP has a workforce of 45,600 and more news crises to manage than most, what with the seemingly unending appetite for welfare scrounger stories in certain parts of the press. Defra employs fewer – 10,500 – but its media team has its fair share of daily news stories to cope with too – the winter floods and slaughterhouse rules to choose just two at random from today.
The Bank of England has just 3,625 workers on the payroll. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its share of busy news days too, but does its PR chief really merit twice the pay of his counterparts in other government departments? Particularly when he also has a “head of media” and “personal press officer to Governor Mark Carney” below him to share the burden. Come to think of it, does he need to be an executive director – with the salary such a status commands – at all?
Then again, they say spin doctors are paid as much for what they keep out of the news as for what they get in. As far as I’m aware, Mr Blythe’s wages have barely registered on Fleet Street’s radar over the years. They must be worth every penny.