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Revealed: Top mandarins' bumper pandemic bonuses

31 July 2021

3:30 AM

31 July 2021

3:30 AM

The news this month that the government will offer nurses a 3 per cent pay rise didn’t exactly go to as ministers had hoped. Public sector workers still facing a pay freeze took umbrage at their exclusion while the UK’s largest nursing union is planning ‘a summer of action’ over what they view as a pitiful raise. But while the government is keen to argue that the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic make it impossible for a large raise, there are some workers who appear to be the exception to the rule.

Following reports in the Telegraph that Treasury civil servants were given pay rises and £15,000 bonuses, a Spectator analysis of accounts released by top governmental and arm’s length bodies show that senior mandarins are enjoying bumper rewards.In total, between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 in bonuses was paid out to those in charge of the country in the 2020/21 financial year.

The Cabinet Office dished out up to £70,000 for their top officials last year, including a payment of between £15,000 to £20,000 for Alex Chisholm, the COO of the Cabinet Office. Meanwhile, the Department of Work and Pensions paid out up to £55,000 to their top staff. This comes as the government seeks to ‘phase out’ the £20 universal credit uplift for struggling families across the country in the autumn.


The Home Office also handed out tens of thousands of pounds to numerous senior civil servants. A decision unlikely to go down particularly well with the Police Federation given the body declared it had no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel after the decision to deny a raise to the police. Boris Johnson defended the pay freeze by arguing the government ‘is going through a tough time financially’.

On hearing the news, James Roberts of the Taxpayers’ Alliance told Steerpike: ‘Taxpayers won’t tolerate these bumper bonuses for bureaucrats. Public sector pay rises and five-figure bonuses fly in the face of working taxpayers in the private sector, many of whom will have seen their incomes decimated during the pandemic. For the Chancellor’s upcoming spending review to be taken seriously, he has to come down hard on this Whitehall hypocrisy.’

A government spokesperson said: ‘We have strict rules around the award of bonuses and individuals must demonstrate clear high-level performance in order to be awarded one. Bonuses make up only 1 per cent of the Civil Service pay bill. Attracting and retaining highly skilled individuals is essential for delivering key public services and we look to balance the need to be competitive with value for money for the taxpayer.’

Perhaps — but given the current row playing out over the proposed 3 per cent pay rise for nurses, Mr S suspects some of these arguments may soon be thrown back at them… <//>

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