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Public Sector People Managers' Association fights back against accusations the sector overpays its leaders

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The Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA) has moved to defend high pay in the public sector.

Ahead of tonight’s BBC Panorama programme, which is set to reveal more than 9,000 public-sector employees are earning a higher wage than the prime minister, the PPMA has defended higher salaries in the sector.

The PPMA claims the public sector often ‘takes a bashing’ and is currently being criticised for paying leaders too much.

New research conducted for BBC Panorama found that there were more than 38,000 public-sector employees earning above £100,000 and 1,000 people on more than £200,000. David Cameron took a 5% pay cut when he took office and earns £142,500.

But Stephen Moir (pictured), past president of the PPMA, said: "Senior public servants pay is much more transparent and open than many other companies. It's important to note that unlike FTSE100 bosses, senior public servants don't get share options or long-term incentive plans, and they certainly don't get the sort of bonuses that other sectors do.

"It's easy to look at the number of digits in someone's salary and assume they are paid too much. But it is important to ask ourselves what are they actually required to do, the level of responsibility they have and then look at outputs – what it should boil down to is whether the efficiency savings or return on investment achieved by the individual is worth the salary."

The PPMA clams public-sector organisations need to respond to the modern world and local services need to be relevant to the local needs of population. This requires talented individuals to drive change.

Moir said: "The public sector needs visionary leaders who can help make a difference. While it may be true to say many people join the public sector because they want to make a difference, it is foolish to think we do not need to benchmark jobs against competitors.

"The public sector has large and complex organisations with a higher degree of public accountability and scrutiny. It is not easy work and if we want to achieve organisational objectives and maximum efficiency we need to pay leaders of such organisations at an appropriate level."

But the PPMA does not ignore the fact public-sector pay and reward needs to be reviewed more generally.

Moir added: "The need to manage the overall cost of the public-sector pay and pensions bill is the real issue, not the relative pay levels of a small number of officials who account for a tiny proportion of the whole.

"We need to look at reward packages right across the sector and have sensible discussions with trade unions and employees about what different packages look like. Only then will we design a structure where employees feel fairly rewarded for the work but also achieve a lower wage bill at same time."