In the news in the last couple of days a number of stories have emerged that shows an incoherence amongst the men and women who are making decisions on our behalf. It appears that at a meeting of the International Development select committee yesterday in the House of Commons, Priti Patel International Development Secretary was quizzed on a matter that used to be dear to her heart. In 2013 she carried out some ‘research’ into the pay scales for the charities that are part of DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) and how a number of them were paying their senior staff over £100,000 salary. One of the members of the committee that met yesterday, Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for mid Derbyshire spoke up about the scale of charity pay. She said: “[There are] huge salaries, far more than the Prime Minister, for people earning over half a million pounds. And they are a charity. It looks like the charities need tackling really strongly on this. The CEOs are being paid over and above what they could be paid, but they’re not putting their life on the line which a lot of the people working for the charities are.”
This comment came as stories emerged of the pay of:
David Miliband, former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister – earning £531,000 for the International Rescue Committee which has been awarded £3.6M by the British Government.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Danish Prime Minister and wife of a Labour MP who is now head of Save the Children, receives a pay and pension package worth £246,750 a year. The organisation was last year given aid contracts worth £104million by Dfid.
No one either in the committee or in the newspaper articles has argued that either of these charities have misused the money they have been granted, and the information published fails to point out that the vast majority of 165,000 British Charities do not have a single paid employee, let alone anyone on a large salary. However as we also know from a recent story connected to the Southern Rail strike, Peter Wilkinson Managing Director of Passenger Services at the Department for Transport earns £260,000 which like the two charity CEOs is an amount greater than the Prime Minister. If we are going to address pay of charities, surely the Governments own pay scales should be scrutinised by these folk.
When Politicians are in the business of criticising charities for their generous remuneration packages, it always tends to be charities that provide overseas relief or occasionally those that care for people who are not the most loved in society. As yet I have never heard a Tory MP criticise the Wellcome Trust who according to reports this year paid one of their members of staff over £3M as a total package (£1.94M in pay) and paid two other members of staff £1.7M and because of the way they are structured as a charity they even pay their Trustees. The same is true of the Trustees of Nuffield Health which is another charity that our Tory Government tends not to criticise. Yet they paid their highest paid worked £1.25M last year in pay alone. There are many others that could be listed. The point is, that if Parliament wants to make an issue of pay of charity workers, perhaps they could start by looking at the hard work carried out by 80% of charities that have an income level of below £100,000. This would at least enable them to sound as though they understand the issues they are addressing before they start to focus on the 2,000 charities (1.2%) that have an income of more than £5M and therefore are in a position to pay any of their employees the sort of sums that are of concern to this committee.