300 EU officials earn more than the Prime Minister

Latest revelation about the EU gravy train shows that some of our officials earn £142,500+.

At least 300 of the UK's appointed staff to the EU earn more than the Prime Minister's salary of £142,500, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

In a response to a parliamentary question on the subject, Lord Howell of Guildford, the Foreign Office minister in the Lords, stated that while the FO did not hold details of individual salaries, 300 of the UK's officials are on salary scales for which the minimum pay is greater than €170,000 -- the equivalent of the Prime Minister's wage at current exchange rates.

All 27 members of the EU's College of Commissioners earn more than this, including the UK's member, Cathy Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is the world's highest-paid female politician, taking home £328,000 a year.

As well as providing the facts, Howell also expressed guarded regret at the wage bill for these appointed officials, saying it was "only right" that, at a time when EU governments were cutting spending, institutions should "think carefully" and "ensure that they get the most for their money".

He went on to say that the Foreign Office is pushing for a "freeze" in the 2011 Budget, and "expects salary levels to reflect the current economic conditions".

Lord Stoddart, the independent Labour peer who tabled the question, condemned the existence of "an unelected governing elite in Brussels" and said: "It would appear that, by comparison to this pampered and overpaid elite, our Prime Minister is a somewhat underpaid office junior!"

He also pointed out that the information from the Foreign Office concerns salaries only, and does not cover the expenses and other allowances available to these officials, which have long been the subject of controversy.

Back in 2007, it was revealed that MEPs were reimbursed for travel on the basis of first-class fares plus 20 per cent, with no obligation to provide receipts. Baroness Ashton, for instance, in addition to her salary, has a private staff of 20 and a chauffeured car. The MEP Nigel Farage last year infamously boasted that he had taken "pushing £2m" of taxpayers' money to promote Ukip's message of withdrawal from the EU in Europe.

The list goes on. The revelation about the salaries for the UK's unelected EU officials is only a small part of the picture. And as Howell has hinted, with vicious spending cuts at home, this vast expenditure of public funds on EU staffers is utterly outrageous.

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Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Sooner or later, a British university is going to go bankrupt

Theresa May's anti-immigration policies will have a big impact - and no-one is talking about it. 

The most effective way to regenerate somewhere? Build a university there. Of all the bits of the public sector, they have the most beneficial local effects – they create, near-instantly, a constellation of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Don’t forget that the housing crisis in England’s great cities is the jobs crisis everywhere else: universities not only attract students but create graduate employment, both through directly working for the university or servicing its students and staff.

In the United Kingdom, when you look at the renaissance of England’s cities from the 1990s to the present day, universities are often unnoticed and uncelebrated but they are always at the heart of the picture.

And crucial to their funding: the high fees of overseas students. Thanks to the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in television and film, the wide spread of English around the world, and the soft power of the BBC, particularly the World Service,  an education at a British university is highly prized around of the world. Add to that the fact that higher education is something that Britain does well and the conditions for financially secure development of regional centres of growth and jobs – supposedly the tentpole of Theresa May’s agenda – are all in place.

But at the Home Office, May did more to stop the flow of foreign students into higher education in Britain than any other minister since the Second World War. Under May, that department did its utmost to reduce the number of overseas students, despite opposition both from BIS, then responsible for higher education, and the Treasury, then supremely powerful under the leadership of George Osborne.

That’s the hidden story in today’s Office of National Statistics figures showing a drop in the number of international students. Even small falls in the number of international students has big repercussions for student funding. Take the University of Hull – one in six students are international students. But remove their contribution in fees and the University’s finances would instantly go from surplus into deficit. At Imperial, international students make up a third of the student population – but contribute 56 per cent of student fee income.

Bluntly – if May continues to reduce student numbers, the end result is going to be a university going bust, with massive knock-on effects, not only for research enterprise but for the local economies of the surrounding area.

And that’s the trajectory under David Cameron, when the Home Office’s instincts faced strong countervailing pressure from a powerful Treasury and a department for Business, Innovation and Skills that for most of his premiership hosted a vocal Liberal Democrat who needed to be mollified. There’s every reason to believe that the Cameron-era trajectory will accelerate, rather than decline, now that May is at the Treasury, the new department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy doesn’t even have responsibility for higher education anymore. (That’s back at the Department for Education, where the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is a May loyalist.)

We talk about the pressures in the NHS or in care, and those, too, are warning lights in the British state. But watch out too, for a university that needs to be bailed out before long. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.