Pay of Britain's top earners 'set to spiral'

The pay of the country's top earners is set to "spiral" to levels not seen for decades, with the public having no confidence that the Government or business can do anything to tackle excessive pay, a report said today.

A study by the High Pay Commission found that high earners will see their pay rise from 5% of national income to 14% by 2030.

A survey of 2,000 adults for the group found that seven out of 10 believed high pay made Britain "grossly unequal" and a similar number had no faith that anything could be done by the Government or business.

The commission, which is studying boardroom pay, said average wages were "stagnating", except for company bosses, with chief executives now paid up to 145 times the average wage.

Commission chairman Deborah Hargreaves, said: "This is the clearest evidence so far that the gap between pay of the general public and the corporate elite is widening rapidly and is out of control.

"Set against the tough spending measures and mixed company performance, we have to ask ourselves whether we are paying more and getting less."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The growing pay gap between top executives and the rest of the workforce is causing huge economic damage.

"Slicing away at ordinary workers' share of overall earnings over the last few decades has led to spiralling household debt which helped create the banking crisis. Securing sustainable economic growth for the future will depend on a fairer distribution of rewards.

"The increasing use of separate pay, bonus and pension arrangements for top executives is exacerbating the 'them and us' divide within companies - reducing productivity and work incentives - and wider society. With wages set to face their greatest squeeze for decades it is vital to both our economic and social health that pay becomes fairer."

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "The huge surge in top bosses' pay will give added ammunition to our current pay claims. With the boardrooms awash with cash, RMT will step up the fight to ensure our members get their share.

"We noted the stage-managed outrage from the Tory right at our 10% deal on Network Rail and their total silence as their mates in the boss class are caught out filling their boots."