By Alanah Eriksen | 29 July 2011
Britain’s top civil servant at the Home Office had a pay rise of around £40,000 when she switched to the same job at another department.
Newly released pay data shows that Dame Helen Ghosh received an annual salary of between £180,000 and £184,999 as permanent secretary of the Home Office when she took the job in January. But in her previous position as permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which she held for five years, she was on £140,000 – £144,999.
That marks a pay rise of around a quarter, but it is not possible to be precise because the government data shows salary bands rather than exact pay levels.
“No one understands why there should be bonuses”
– David Winnick, Labour MP
This is despite the chancellor, George Osborne, announcing in June 2010, in his first budget after the Conservative-led administration came to power, that all public-sector workers earning annual salaries above £21,000 would have their pay frozen for two years. The case symbolises the problems faced by the government in reining in public-sector pay for senior staff.
Her salary level was, however, below that of her predecessor at the Home Office, David Normington, who had been on £195,000 – £199,999 before he retired at the end of last year.
Ghosh astonished MPs on the House of Commons home affairs select committee in April by saying that bonuses for civil servants of up to £10,000 were “not exactly big bucks”. She told MPs that two-thirds of her department’s staff received a total of £773,000 in bonuses in the 2009-2010 financial year, and that a further £300,000 was expected to be paid in the following year.
The issue arose because the Home Office was advertising for a new £170,000-a-year chief executive of the UK Border Agency, and the application form revealed that there was a possible £17,500 performance-related bonus available.
David Winnick, Labour MP, told her: “No one understands why there should be bonuses. It is totally incomprehensible to us, and even more so to our constituents.”
Ghosh is one of six officials at the department earning more or the same as the prime minister, who has an annual salary of £142,500.
However, some senior Home Office staff took pay cuts over the last financial year. As the government releases more details about the pay of top civil servants, the Foreign Office also disclosed salary levels for senior staff, including diplomats and other civil servants at the department.
And increasing openness by the government over senior civil servants’ salaries appears to have led the Home Office to begin curbing pay levels.
Kevin White, director of human resources, seemed to set an example by taking the biggest cut in the department – of around £50,000.
His annual salary of between £190,000 and £194,999, as of March 31, 2010, dropped to between £140,000 and £144,999 this year.
The Cabinet Office, which released the data, says that it shows only basic salaries, although the Home Office, which supplied it, says its 2010 figures includes benefits. As a result of confusion between departments, the data sometimes evidently mixes up basic salaries with total salaries. Nonetheless, White’s salary figures are understood to include benefits, and that the big decrease was down to his losing an accommodation allowance in the new financial year.
Another official, Helen Kilpatrick, the director-general (financial and commercial), took a pay cut of around £35,000. Her annual salary in 2010 of £205,000 – £209,999 fell to £180,000 – £184,999 this year.
The Home Office’s director-general (strategy and international), Peter Makeham, kept the same salary of £160,000 – £164,999. The other civil servants at the department with salaries higher than the prime minister’s were its legal adviser, David Seymour, and commercial director, Bill Crothers, who each received £145,000 – £149,000.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We also have a responsibility to reduce the budget deficit, and we are playing a role in that.”
Meanwhile, the two highest-ranking officials at the Treasury had their pay frozen this year. Sir Nick McPherson, the permanent secretary, received £175,000 – £179,999, the same as last year. And his deputy, the second permanent secretary, Tom Scholar, saw his salary stay at £150,000 – £154,000.
Three other Treasury officials were paid more than the prime minister. Jonathan Taylor, director-general (financial services and stability), received £160,000 – £164,999 this year. Andrew Rose, acting chief executive of Infrastructure UK, a Treasury advisory unit, received £170,000 – £174,999. And James Ballingall, who, as head of assurance for Infrastructure UK, reports to Rose, is on more, with an annual salary of £185,000 – £189,999.
Additional reporting by Andrea Perry.