The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has scored its biggest scoop to date after finding out that in excess of 38,000 UK public servants earn more than £100,000 a year.
Assistant producer for the bureau Victoria Hollingsworth spent seven months working on the story with a team of ten working on it at different stages.
Financially the investigation was a joint venture between the BIJ and BBC One’s Panorama, which is broadcasting a programme based on the investigation tonight. The story made the front pages of today’s Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail.
The investigation reveals that those in the public sector earning more than the Prime Minister include: 6,478 NHS employees, 1,231 in education andd 159 BBC staff.
Writing in the October edition of Press Gazette, Hollingsworth reveals that her biggest initial problem was creating a complete list of public sector bodies – as no official one exists.
Her investigation took so long, she reveals, partly because of delays from Freedom of Information officials. It involved some 2,400 Freedom of Information Act requests.
She said: ‘Given that the legal time frame in which to respond to an FoI is 20 days, many organisations, including many central government departments, breached the guidelines numerous times over.”
She said that matters did not improve after the May general election, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledges to crack down on excessive public sector pay.
‘The Prime Minister’s eagerness for transparency seemed not to have been adopted so enthusiastically in all areas of government. Ironically, while Cabinet members were talking of plans to publish salaries of top-earning public servants and quango bosses , they themselves were still refusing to answer my questions about their own salaries.”
The BIJ keeps tight-lipped about ongoing projects but it did reveal to Press Gazette today that it is currently working on a big investigation into EU funding with the Financial Times.
The bureau is a not-for-profit organisation which was launched in April this year with initial funding of £2m from the Potter Foundation.