Who in York is earning over £30,000? STEPHEN LEWIS investigates.

THE average salary in York is just over £30,000, apparently.

Phew! Well that's all right then. We can all stop whinging about the high cost of food, petrol and housing.

Er, well not quite. Website allthetopbananas.com which came up with the figure admits £30,019 is just the average advertised salary in York. And because there are very few low-paid jobs advertised on the site, the figure may be a little high.

Even so, who are York's equivalents to the Harry Enfield character Loadsamoney? We made it our mission to find out.

First stop, Paul Willey. As supervisor of the council street-cleaning team responsible for keeping the city centre spick and span, he does a hugely important job. Even better, he has an MBE from the Queen.

So he must be earning much more than £30,000, right?

There is a stunned silence. Then: "Do you really think I do?" he asks, incredulously.

No Paul, just pulling your leg. Actually, he's on well below that - and some of his "lads" earn only about £8 an hour, he says. He does a quick mental calculation: £30,000 a year would be about £400 a week after tax and national insurance. "That would be nice for my lads!"

He's not jealous of those who earn more, however. City of York Council's chief executive Bill McCarthy earns between £130,000 and £145,000, depending on performance. "But I wouldn't like his job, at the mercy of 183,000 people living in York!" Paul says.

If not a street cleaner, then how about a charity worker? Age Concern in York makes a real difference to the quality of life of hundreds of pensioners in the city. It is important, hugely valuable work.

The charity's chief officer, Sally Hutchinson, is in charge of a budget of £750,000 a year. So surely she's on a decent whack - more than £30,000 at least?

She gurgles with disbelieving laughter. "We're not in this for the money!" she says, naming a figure some way below that.

There is no big wage differential at Age Concern, because Sally and her deputy James Player have arranged salaries to ensure their lower-paid staff get a decent wage.

Even so, Sally says crossly, some of her part-time staff have suffered as a result of the scrapping of the 10p tax rate. Charity workers may not be in it for the money, she says. "But we've got to be able to live and have a home."

Maybe it will be third time lucky. There are few jobs more important in a civilised society than that of barman - how else are we all to get our after-work pint?

Surely the city's many bar staff must be on at least £30 grand?

Blue Bell boss Jim Hardie almost chokes into his pint. There are lies, damned lies and statistics, he says, in reference to that supposed average York salary of £30,000. "There won't be many of my customers earning that!" he says. "York is a low-wage economy and always has been."

But surely a man like himself...? "My hourly rate would be about £2.80 an hour!" Jim says. "That's what's left at the end of the year!"

Regulars at the Hansom Cab in York were overcome with mirth at the suggestion the average York salary was £30,000.

"I don't know anybody in here that takes that sort of money!" said pub boss Brian Battye - stressing that that included him.

Regular Andy Fisher agreed. The former hotel assistant manager, who is now off work and claiming incapacity benefit, said there were obviously some people in York earning more than £30,000. "But they are definitely in a minority," he said.

Security officer Paul Smith was also disbelieving. "£600 a week? No way! If I earn £20,000 a year, I'm happy - and that's a good wage."

Retired RAF rate sergeant Kenneth Hardy did believe that the average salary in York could be near £30,000, however.

"There will be some people on £80,000, some on £50,000, some on £10,000," he said. "You only need a small minority on a high salary to raise the figure."

Finally, however, I strike lucky. Westfield Primary School headteacher Mark Barnett admits rather nervously that he does earn over £30,000. "But I work very hard to get it!" he says. There's no disputing that: the genial head is, after all, in charge of the largest primary school in York - and a good job he does, too.

But what about other teachers? Some - the more experienced ones - do earn more than £30,000, Mark says. Others, who haven't been in the job long, earn considerably less, even though they do a hugely responsible job.

There are those in the city who are doing well, however. Doctors and financial advisers are among them.

Charles Helfferich, of Grosvenor Financial Consultants in York earns more than £30,000. And he deals with other successful people who also earn good salaries. He mainly advises doctors and dentists, he says. "And they have seen their pay increase quite rapidly."

Charles is not about to criticise high earners, many of whom work hard.

He does think it wrong, however, that some top company bosses rake in fat salaries and huge bonuses even when their companies are failing.

He also thinks there are people who probably earn far less than they should - care home staff, for example. "I think that's probably a disgrace."

And as for the doctors... York GP Dr David Fair earns more than £30,000 - and is very happy with his salary.

"But then I sometimes tell my patients that the job is so enjoyable I'd do it for nothing!" he says.

Public sector salaries in York

UNIVERSITY of York vice-chancellor Brian Cantor earned £178,046 last year, plus £2,490 benefits in kind.

The normal starting salary for a lecturer at the university is £33,780.

City of York Council chief executive Bill McCarthy earns between £130,000 and £145,000, depending on performance. Other council salaries advertised recently include: care assistant, £7.16 an hour; business analyst, £33,291-£35,852; health and safety manager, up to £42,689.

York Hospital has recently advertised for a new chief executive at "circa £150,000". Other hospital jobs advertised include a medical secretary, at £16,853-£20,261 and a ward clerk at £12,577-£15,523.

In the six months to March 31 last year, meanwhile, North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust chief executive Janet Soo-Chung earned up to £75,000, plus benefits in kind of up to £35,000, according to the trust's annual report.

That was only for six months, meaning her package for the whole year could have worked out at up to £220,000.