'Pay bankers the same as civil servants'

Emma Woollacott
London City Hall by River Thames at sunset, UK.
London City Hall by River Thames at sunset, UK.

Bankers should be paid no more than civil servants, a former senior advisor to David Cameron has proposed.

Steve Hilton, who is now working as an academic in the US, made the suggestion during a BBC interview to promote his new book, More Human.

"If you are a company that requires bailing out, should you go wrong then you should be considered part of the public sector and the pay of your executives should be capped at the same level of civil servants' pay levels," he said.

"I think that would be a powerful incentive for these companies to choose what they want to be... they might decide to actually split themselves up."

Hilton was the prime minister's director of strategy until 2012, but has always had a reputation for being slightly unconventional, thanks to his habit of wandering around Downing Street in jeans and bare feet.

In his new book, he warns of the growing power of a political, business and media elite that effectively leaves ordinary voters powerless.

"Regardless of who's in office, the same people are in power," he recently wrote in the Sunday Times. "It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome."

In many cases, he says, the people advising the government on how to respond to the banking crash were the same people that had caused the problems in the first place.

While Hilton's views might seem rather contrary to those of David Cameron, the two are still said to be close. And Hilton argues that a fairer Britain would be good for the economy too, as it would remove the distrust of big business that many voters feel.

Capping bankers' pay at the same level as that of civil servants wouldn't exactly leave them in penury - top civil servants can pull in as much as £200,000 a year. It's a far cry, though, from the multi-million pound earnings many enjoy at present.

Thanks to pay, bonuses and share awards, for example, CEO of Lloyds Banking Group Antonio Horta-Osorio made £11.5 million last year. The bank was bailed out by the tax-payer in 2008 and is still one-fifth publicly owned.

The Bank of England is currently pushing for tighter rules on banking bonuses. If approved, they will mean that when a banker has done something wrong or made a major mistake, their bonus can be clawed back up to six years after receiving the payout.

Goldman Tops UK Banker Pay With $4.7 Million Awarded for 2013
Goldman Tops UK Banker Pay With $4.7 Million Awarded for 2013

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