Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ex-RBS boss Fred Goodwin or 168 nurses? It's your call.

Sorry does not seem to be the hardest word for bankers. Responsibility, fairness and justice are all a lot harder and, indeed, if yesterday's shambolic performance before the Treasury Committee is any guide, some words are impossible. There was a lot of talk about bonuses in 2007. Sir(!?) Fred Goodwin, the man who destroyed RBS, was paid £4,190,000 in salary and bonus. Andy Hornby the man who presided over HBOS's demise was on a paltry £1.93m bonus and benefits.

I mention this not because like any sane person I cannot believe that the government, the regulators and most of all us, the general public, allowed this to come to pass but because the date - 2007 - triggered a memory. Wasn't 2007 the year the NHS was cancelling operations left, right and centre as it ran out of money and trusts desperately tried to balance their books by the end of the year? A quick web search proved my memory had not, on this occasion, failed me.

So here's another word that bankers and government better learn quickly: priorities.

Last week a lot of British workers went on unofficial strike to complain about other EU workers being paid the minimum wage. Surely what we need next is an official strike demanding a new maximum wage. Aside from the economic and moral benefits, it would have another advantage: apparently Sir Fred told the MPs yesterday that if bankers felt they were not paid enough, they would leave.

Sorry, I do try to avoid politics in this health blog but Fred Goodwin's 2007 salary could have paid for 28 hospital consultants (on £150k) or 140 heart transplants (based on BBC 2006 estimate) or 168 band 5 nurses (on £25k). Not to comment would be to be complicit in obscenity.

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