Bonuses for high-flying staff in the UK have leapt 16% to a record total of £19bn, according to latest figures.
The total calculated in the Office for National Statistics’ annual report is equivalent to the UK’s annual transport budget.
This was a rise of £2.5bn and followed a £1.5bn rise last year. The bulk of the payments – approximately £10bn – went to financial services workers in the City of London and Canary Wharf.
The record bonus levels have been blamed for pushing up house prices in urban as well as rural areas, where City workers and executives buy country retreats.
The bonuses reflect bumper profits at British banks, which made a record £33bn in profits in 2005.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady said that while people needed to be rewarded for doing a good job, the huge amounts being paid out in City bonuses “continue to beggar belief”.
“Many working people can only dream of earning what a small number of City high-fliers receive each year in their annual bonus,” she said.
Peter Montagnon, director of investment affairs at the Association of British Insurers, defended the payments to City workers, which he said were based on performance.
“My impression has always been that City bonuses go down as well as up. They have a pretty close link to performance, almost certainly closer than that achieved in the publicly listed sector where, over a long period, we have seen evidence of upward creep,” he said.