Happy New Year. Not that there appears to be anything new about the weather as I contemplate the journey to Glasgow for a meeting this morning.
The same is of course true for the bankers and their apologists in the UK Con-Dem coalition. We hear that the Royal Bank of Scotland may pay £1bn in bonuses while Barclays may pay around £5bn. This will no doubt be spun as a small reduction on last year. However, even if bonuses are cut, salaries have risen significantly to compensate, by up to 40% in some cases.
There was much rhetoric on this from Osborne and Cable before and after the election. Vince Cable told the BBC last month that the coalition government was "fully signed up" to "robust action" in curbing bonuses. In 2009 George Osborne said that we could not wait for the 'promised land of a responsible bonus culture'.
It is particularly galling to hear senior bankers defending these bonuses on the grounds that we need to retain talent, incentivise our staff. They entirely forget that it was this 'talent' that brought the world economy to its knees and had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. It is the taxpayer, and public sector workers in particular, who are now paying the price. Few bonuses here, just job losses and pay freezes.
Ian Bell is his comment piece in today's Herald sums it up well.
"It ought to be a sobering thought to anyone who can still manage surprise. Large parts of British banking are in the hands of the state. Other parts are intact and profitable thanks only to the state’s guarantee. Yet no government, of any stripe, is willing or able to exert proper control. It’s easier, too easy, to blame that bloated public sector, and to soak the poor."