Blair tops pay table of EU Prime Ministers

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair is Europe's best paid Prime Minister, according to a report comparing salaries of politicians and top civil servants in 13 countries across the continent.

With annual earnings of £183,000 (€268,500) a year, Mr Blair's financial standing is slightly above that of the leader of the largest European nation, Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel earns €261,500 (£179,000). The study also concludes that top British civil servants are the best paid in Europe. Overall, the report, compiled by Hay Group management consultancy, finds that the premiers of the bigger EU nations earn the most. But Ireland's Bertie Ahern bucks that trend, emerging as the third-highest-paid on €252,400 (£172,600), and earning more than his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, with €240,000 (£164,100).

Meanwhile, pay levels in Eastern European nations that joined the EU two years ago lag well behind. The Prime Minister of Poland, by far the biggest of the new nations with a population of more than 38 million, earns €53,400 (£36,500) while his Slovakian counterpart is at the bottom of the pile on €39,100 (£26,700).

With the exception of the new, formerly Communist nations, the data found that pay for premiers, ministers and civil servants is tending to converge across the continent. However there is still a slight geographical divide, with the north earning more than the south.

And, despite the large disparities between Eastern and Western Europe, the document suggests that even those prime ministers at the top of the scale are not overpaid. Compared to senior private sector jobs, the report says Mr Blair is at the lower end of the pay spectrum, earning 5-10 per cent of what he might expect outside government, for example in a top corporate post such as the chief executive of BP or HSBC.

The report says: "When prime ministerial jobs are evaluated and their pay is compared to that of equivalent private sector posts in their own pay markets, a more complex picture emerges. Most prime ministers are paid 10-20 per cent of the prevailing rate for comparable-sized jobs in their countries."

Mr Blair's pay for his job is ranked as low for two reasons. Firstly, his responsibilities were ranked as more onerous that those of counterparts. In Germany regional governments have more power than in the UK, while the French President performs many of the functions undertaken in Britain by the Prime Minister.

Second, the figures were affected by UK top pay rates. Philip Cohen, a director of Hay Group, said: "British private sector pay is much higher than in several other countries."

Ministerial pay is highest in Germany, an average of €218,200 (£149,300), followed by the UK on €195,600 (£133,800) and Belgium with €194,400 (£133,000). Slovakian ministers were the lowest paid, earning on average €32,100 (£22,000). But the civil service appears a real winner in Britain, with top officials earning on average €279,300 (£191,000) - more than the Prime Minister, and between 20-25 per cent of their private sector value.

Mr Cohen said that British civil servants "are pretty well paid because we have instituted a series of flexibilities and reforms and we have a lot more recruitment from the private sector. As a result the Government has pitched its salaries to hope to recruit people from the outside."

The premier league

Tony Blair UNITED KINGDOM

£183,000

Angela Merkel GERMANY

£179,000

Bertie Ahern IRELAND

£172,600

Dominique de Villepin FRANCE

£164,100

Guy Verhofstadt BELGIUM

£132,695

Anders Fogh Rasmussen DENMARK

£130,000

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