We are paid too much, bankers confess in St Paul's survey

As politicians shift ground on high earners, City workers admit public sector gets raw deal

Matt Thomas,Brian Brady
Sunday 06 November 2011 01:00
Bankers surveyed thought lawyers were overpaid as well
Bankers surveyed thought lawyers were overpaid as well

British bankers have admitted that they are paid too much, a report into moral standards in the City of London will reveal tomorrow.

A survey of 500 workers in City financial institutions, carried out for the Christian think-tank St Paul's Institute, found that "a substantial number" believed they were overpaid compared with other professions – particularly frontline workers including teachers and, most of all, nurses.

The results will fuel continuing bitterness towards the industry over its culpability for the financial crisis and its apparent failure to rein in huge salaries and bonuses . Last night The Sunday Times reported the publicly owned Royal Bank of Scotland is planning to pay its investment bankers about £500m in bonuses.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, yesterday joined the attack on bankers' pay, claiming excesses in the financial sector had helped to create huge inequalities in wealth, "demonstrating how scandalously unfair our society is".

The Independent on Sunday revealed last week that St Paul's had suppressed the report following the resignation of Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser, amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London protest outside the the cathedral.

The study, carried out during the summer by the market research company ComRes, questioned bankers on the ethics of their salaries and bonuses. The IoS understands, when asked whether they thought they were overpaid compared with other professions, a significant number of City workers agreed that they were. However, many thought that lawyers were more overpaid, while doctors' salaries were in line with their responsibilities. A source close to the institute said City workers accepted that teachers and nurses were underpaid.

The survey also reveals that about a third of the City workers believe in God, compared with three-quarters of the British population. The Reverend Andrew Studdert-Kennedy has written an online article to accompany the launch of the survey. He told The IoS: "There is no editorialising or spin ... It is a very simple presentation of facts and findings. The participants will be damned, if damned they are to be, by their own words."

The report was supposed to be released on 27 October, but was delayed by the resignation of Dr Fraser, who is on the radical wing of the church. The Dean, the Right Rev Graeme Knowles, followed Dr Fraser four days later. Both men have written forewords to the report, which will now be delivered by the St Paul's Institute manager, Robert Gordon.

"This really was the culmination of a lot of Giles Fraser's work," said a spokesman for the cathedral. "The past week has been about getting the cathedral where it now is with regards to talks with the protesters. Giles and the Dean are the two people who are most prominently involved in the report, so the cathedral had to get to a point where the institute manager is able to handle this himself until their vacancies are filled."

Revelations over the bankers' view of their own remuneration came as Dr Sentamu, the second-most important figure in the Church of England, called for a change in public attitudes towards excessive personal wealth as profound and rapid as moves against racism, homophobia and sex discrimination in recent decades.

He said: "Over the past few decades, the gains from economic growth have gone disproportionately to those who already have the most." Dr Sentamu added that the rich should be excluded from the Queen's honours list.

Yesterday, Dr Fraser said the church should highlight the human cost of financial injustice, but he warned against "proposing specific answers to complex economic problems".

"Markets create wealth and jobs, and indeed those who want to dispense with capitalism are often better at saying what they're against than they are at proposing convincing alternatives," Dr Fraser said on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. "Nonetheless, part of the reason why Christianity is so suspicious of money is that the power and glamour of money can easily corral us into a narrower sense of what it is to be human."

Protesters marched from St Paul's to Trafalgar Square yesterday in an attempt to join up with the Jarrow marchers. However, scuffles broke out after police formed a line to stop the marchers from moving down Whitehall towards Parliament and the demonstrators tried to force their way through the police line. Downing Street insisted that David Cameron was determined to tackle unfairness in society. "The thing that he is concerned about is making sure there isn't a something-for-nothing culture that operates at the top of society, nor at the bottom," said a No 10 source.

The blame game: How they changed their tune on City fatcats

David Cameron, Prime Minister

January 2011 "It's an easy scapegoat to pick one industry. Governments made mistakes, regulators made mistakes, politicians made mistakes."

November 2011 "I think the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks, frankly, for the whole country when he says that it is unacceptable in a time of difficulty when people at the top of our society are not showing signs of responsibility."

Bob Diamond, Chief executive, Barclays

January 2011 "There was a period of remorse and apology for banks. I think that period is over. The biggest issue is how do we put some of the blame game behind us."

November 2011 "We have to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong. Most importantly, we have to use the lessons learned to become better and more effective citizens."

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

October 2009 "I know how far out I am on this limb in sticking up for these pariahs. But never forget, all would-be banker bashers, that the leper colony in the City of London produces 9 per cent of UK GDP, 13 per cent of value added and taxes that pay for roads and schools and hospitals."

October 2011 "I do think it would have been good if they could have found someone to carry the can [for the 2008 meltdown], absolutely. I'm afraid I am not sufficiently expert myself, to point the finger, but if you've got someone ..."

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