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Bank of England mulls pay rise for its court

"Just" £15,000 for three days work a month.

Photograph: Getty Images

The Financial Times' Patrick Jenkins reports that Bank of England officials are considering boosting the pay of the non-executive directors in the Bank's "court" (its governing body):

The eight external non-executives in the 12-seat “court” – as the BoE’s governing body is named – are paid just £15,000 a year for a time commitment of three days a month. The chairman of the court, Sir David Lees, who works three to four days a week in his role, is paid £30,000.

“This needs to change,” said one person who is backing the reforms. “£15,000 is pitiful. It suggests people are only turning up for tea.”

Although "just £15,000" is actually a pro-rata salary of over £150,000 per year, hard for most to reconcile with the phrase "pitiful", there's a new urgency to getting this sorted out sooner rather than later. With the demise of the Financial Services Authority, which was disbanded at the end of March, financial regulation has been split between the new Financial Conduct Authority, which is operated under the aegis of the Treasury, and two bodies run by the Bank of England: the new Prudential Regulation Authority, and the Bank's own Financial Policy Committee.

On top of that, the Bank also now has an explicit remit to protect financial stability in the UK. All of those changes have made the danger of regulatory capture (when a regulator begins serving the interests of the industry they are regulating over the interests of the state) a more pressing issue than it has been for much of the bank's past; and one of the key ways of avoiding that capture is to pay the regulator enough that they don't find themselves beholden to those they are regulating.

Of course, that's less of an issue in the Bank of England than it is elsewhere. For one, sitting in the court remains a part-time job. A number of the members have other work which hardly leaves them penniless. The managing director of Lloyds Banking Group, the chairman of Legal and General Group and the managing partner of Grovepoint Capital are unlikely to find themselves suddenly corruptible because they spend a few days each month working for less than their normal pay; and regulatory capture is less of an issue if the industry being regulated already has half the seats at the table.

Which is probably why the key argument being made internally is one of perception. As one reformer tells Jenkins:

Continuing to call this body the court and paying people so little conveys the wrong impression externally.

But perception differs inside and outside the industries the Bank regulates. While it may be important in conversations with other people working in the city, there's a markedly different perception of the bank in the real world. While it's insulated from public opinion to a certain extent, it may still be a good idea for the court to let the new financial regulatory regime bed in before awarding themselves pay rises – because right now, the crash is still firm in people's minds, and that is something which doesn't justify a large salary at all.