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Bankers: The new untouchables?
THE BANKERS' astronomical pay just won't go away, however much the Con-Dems wish it would. George Osborne asked the banks (nicely) to tell him how many of their staff earned over £1 million a year (remember: the UK average wage is £26,000). They squirmed and said no - it might increase pay demands (!), lead to competitive disadvantage etc, etc.
According to the Times business editor: "The Chancellor appears to have swallowed the banks' line. Or perhaps he wants to bury the evidence that all efforts to curb bonuses have had little effect." British banks' half-hearted attempts to agree to rein in bonuses were scuppered by Standard Chartered's decision to pull out of the negotiations.
The banks are embarrassed. Investment arms of Barclays and RBS haven't done that well this year (all together now: A-a-a-a-h!). Barclays Capital has actually taken more staff on this year - 2,300 to be precise - so their overall bonus tally might be even bigger than last year! By the way, does this mean a new investment bubble is under way?
The final straw was Standard Chartered. George Osborne was trying to restrict bonuses to one-year deals only. Standard Chartered is considering leaving the UK anyway for sunnier climes like Hong Kong and Singapore where multi-year bonuses are typical for 'star' bankers, so it abandoned negotiations.
The Con-Dem government desperately want a face-saver so they can show 'we're all in it together'. But the bankers won't help the government off the hook and the government won't dare lay a finger on the bankers - the new untouchables.