Next year, they'll still be millionaires

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Grandad, Del Boy and RodneyPeckham's finest wheeler dealer Del Boy Trotter was always telling his sidekick brother Rodney: "This time next year, we'll be millionaires." It expressed the hopes of many that everyone had the chance to make good.

But the reality of the ConDem coalition's cuts is that only the already wealthy will come out of the spending cuts with their wealth intact. This time next year, they'll still be millionaires.

We're all in this together

It was little over a year ago that the Conservatives adopted the slogan "we're all in this together". David Cameron used his first speech to the party faithful to say: "I promise you that if we pull together to deal with these debts today, then just a few years down the line the rewards will be felt by everyone in the country."

So benefits have been cut for the poorest, the number of children living in poverty is expected to rise and public sector workers are facing pay freezes and attacks on their pensions. These measures would be unacceptable even if the pain were being shared, but we're not all in this together at all.

From rags to riches

Independent pay researcher Income Data Services (IDS) last week reported that pay for the directors of the UK's top businesses rose 50% over the past year, taking the average pay for a director of an FTSE 100 company to just short of £2.7m. Pay and benefits packages rose by 43% over the year, according to the study.

The day before, IDS reported that UK pay deals for ordinary workers were failing to keep up with the cost of living, especially for public sector workers. The median pay rise in the three months to the end of September was 2.6% in the private sector, and there had been a pay freeze in the public sector. Both were well short of the 5.2% inflation rate.

In the previous month, the High Pay Commission (HPC) reported that average bonuses for directors of FTSE 350 companies had risen by 187% since 2002, without any link to a rise in share prices. It said average annual bonuses were worth 48% of salary in 2002, but are now worth 90%.

In August the HPC said directors at the UK's top companies were retiring on pensions of about £175,000 a year, with bosses' pensions worth up to 29 times the rest of the workforce.

Politicians' snouts in the trough

This week, it was reported that John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, has refused to cut his lucrative pension arrangements in line with other MPs and ministers.

MPs on Monday agreed to increase their pension payments by 3% of their salaries and signed up for a new, slightly less generous, pension scheme to be introduced from 2015.

But Bercow's retirement package remains one of the most generous in the country. It pays him the equivalent of half his salary throughout his life, whenever he retires. That's about £40,000 a year regardless of how many years he sticks to the job. A similar pension would cost more than £2m to fund privately.

Millionaires

We really shouldn't be surprised that government rhetoric about sharing the pain of the cuts is just empty words. Let's remember, when the new government started, of the 29 ministers entitled to attend Cabinet meetings, 23 were said to be worth more than £1m.

As Del Boy might have said: "This time next year, Rodney, they'll still be millionaires."

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