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Wage gap between Exeter and Plymouth revealed

By Herald Express  |  Posted: May 31, 2014

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A NEW survey reveals how salaries differ between Devon's major cities with workers in Plymouth earning thousands of pounds a year less than people doing similar jobs in Exeter.

And the pay gap has been growing over the past three years.

For some top jobs the differential is as much as £20,000.

But in a few cases such as sales executives, you are better off in Plymouth (salary range £16,000-£24,000) than in Exeter (£14,000-£22,000).

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And many lower-grade jobs show no difference in the two cities.

Dr Richard Saundry, associate professor at Plymouth University's Graduate School of Management, warned against reading too much into the figures from the 2014 Regional Salary Guide, compiled by the recruitment agency Reed.

He said it was difficult to compare the relative positions of jobs within organisations, even when they have the same title.

According to this year's South West edition of the guide, Exeter-based employees in around half of the 66 roles studied have a maximum salary up to tens of thousands of pounds higher than workers in equivalent jobs in Plymouth.

The majority of minimum salaries are also higher for Exeter employees, with 36 roles offering a better like-for-like wage in the county town, compared to just seven which offer a higher minimum salary to workers in Plymouth.

The biggest contrast is for a sales director in Exeter (£70,000), compared to £50,000 in Plymouth.

Account directors can earn up to £15,000 more in Exeter than in Plymouth.

Staff in office support, customer services and IT roles are up to £7,000 better off working in Exeter.

Devon County Council says average full-time earnings in Exeter grew by 9.7 per cent between 2009 and 2013, but by only 3.3per cent in Plymouth over the same period.

A council spokesman suggested that lower unemployment in Exeter was at the root of the wage gap.

"Unemployment has fallen in recent years in Plymouth and Exeter, although faster and to a much lower level in Exeter, meaning employers there have a smaller pool of available labour and often have to offer higher salaries," he said.

Earnings in both cities were still below the national average.

Chris Lorimer, director of Exeter Chamber of Commerce, said: "We're a smaller city but we are growing quite quickly. We have a low unemployment rate and high demand for staff, pushing up what employees can ask for.

"This is a double-edged sword – good for staff but making it harder for businesses who have to afford those salaries."

He said the city's transport links were a key contributing factor, allowing the city to draw its working population from a wider area and "giving access to a higher calibre of worker".

Carolyn Giles, an HR consultant and director at Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, queried the value of the guide for making direct comparisons between the cities.

"When you factor in Plymouth's higher dependency on public sector jobs and the greater incidence of SMEs in the city, linking salaries to job titles alone doesn't tell us a huge amount," she said.

Dr Saundry from Plymouth University said that as you travelled further west, job opportunities were reduced, which meant workers had less bargaining power.

But he added: "That's a lifestyle choice for many people."

"The headline figures make good copy, but slightly obscure the true picture," he said.

A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said: "The figures are not a surprise to us and we have significantly revised our local economic strategy recently to start to address low productivity and the resulting lower wages and salaries in Plymouth.

"We view the City Deal as an incredible opportunity to play to our strengths and to help the city move away from its reliance on the public sector, which is shrinking, and instead focus our attentions on areas where we are already or have the potential to be global players.

"The issue of less pay in Plymouth will not be resolved overnight.

"Working with our partners such as the university, we can encourage highly skilled companies to invest here as well as nurture our own businesses."

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