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Nine thousand public sector staff earn more than PM

More than 9,000 employees working in the public sector are paid more than the Prime Minister, it was disclosed today.

An investigation by BBC1's Panorama and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggested the numbers earning more than David Cameron's £142,500-a-year are significantly higher than previously thought.

The findings by the programme - to be screened tonight - will heighten the controversy already raging over comparative pay levels in the public and private sectors.

Based on the responses to more than 2,400 Freedom of Information requests to public bodies, they show that 38,000 were paid over £100,000 while 1,000 received over £200,000.

They include GPs, teachers, police chiefs, council officers and senior civil servants, as well as senior managers in the BBC itself.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude insisted that it should not be necessary to offer "stupendous amounts" of money in the public sector.

"You can square the circle of having really good people not on telephone number salaries and massive built-in bonuses," he told the programme.

"That public service ethos is very important. People will come and work in a public sector for salaries that aren't competitive in a private sector sense."

The NHS was the sector found to have the the highest number of staff earning over £100,000 - 26,000 - with almost 6,500 paid more than the Prime Minister.

Those with salaries topping the PM's included 1,465 GPs - 10 of whom received more than £300,000. The highest earner was an unnamed GP working for the Hillingdon Primary Care Trust with pay of £475,500.

In the education sector, 385 teachers in England earn more than £100,000 and 17 get more than the Prime Minister.

The best paid was an unnamed teacher from Essex on £232,500, followed by Mark Elms, the head teacher of Tidemill Primary School in Lewisham, south east London, on £231,400.

A total of 196 police officers across the UK receive more than £100,000, with 45 earning more than the Prime Minister, headed by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson on £280,489.

The programme also highlights salaries in the BBC where 97 managers earn more than £160,000, 160 get more than £130,000 and 331 are on over £100,000.

Director general Mark Thompson is the best paid with total remuneration of £838,000, including basic pay of £668,000, £7,000 in benefits and an additional pension payment of £163,000.

In local government, 362 council employees across the UK get more than the Prime Minister, with Gerald Jones, the chief executive of Conservative-run Wandsworth Council in south London, getting £299,925.

The Civil Service has 241 senior officials receiving as much or more than Mr Cameron, with 26 in the Ministry of Defence, 22 each in the Department for Business and the Cabinet Office, 18 in the Department of Health, and 13 in the Foreign Office.

The Department of Communities and Local Government, where Secretary of State Eric Pickles has denounced the "gravy train" of top pay, has nine civil officials on more than the PM.

There are 832 members of the armed forces getting more than £100,000 and 2,013 people working in the judiciary - 211 of whom earn more than the Prime Minister.

The highest earners in central Government were the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, on £288,700, NHS chief executive David Nicholson on £278,800 and the Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton on £277,500.

The overall figures compiled by the programme did not include publicly-owned corporations which operate on a commercial basis - some of which have very highly paid bosses.

These include the Royal Mail where, according to the programme, former chief executive Adam Crozier received a total remuneration package worth £2.4 million in 2009-10.

Ian Coucher, the chief executive of Network Rail, was said to have received a package worth £1.4 million, including supplementary pension contributions, while Financial Services Authority boss Hector Sants got a total of £795,192.