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David Cameron 'utterly shameless' over pay rises offered to special advisers

Published 30/08/2016

David Cameron increased the salary of some of his special advisers by as much as £18,000
David Cameron increased the salary of some of his special advisers by as much as £18,000

David Cameron should be "ashamed" of inflation-busting pay rises he handed out to special advisers just months before they were given generous severance packages, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said.

The former prime minister upped the salary of some of his advisers - known as Spads - by as much as £18,000, or up to 24%, according to analysis by Civil Service World.

The double digit hikes - ordered despite pay being capped at just 1% across the public sector - were widely condemned.

Mr Farron said: "Cameron talked a lot about cutting the cost of politics over the last few years. This shows how utter empty this rhetoric was.

"This is triple whammy - honours to cronies and a whacking great pay rise and then a bumped up severance package. Compare this massive rise in a select few's pay to a 1% pay rise given to nurses, teachers and public sector workers and the 2% average pay award across the private sector in 2015.

"This is frankly utterly shameless and the former PM should be ashamed."

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior officials, told Civil Service World: "It would seem hypocrisy knows no bounds from a prime minister who preached pay restraint and austerity to public servants and the public, whilst at the same time awarding double-digit pay rises to his special advisers."

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, told the magazine: "We believe that every civil servant deserves a decent pay rise. It is frankly shameful that David Cameron thinks that this should just apply to his close circle of political friends."

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers will be shocked at the size of these increases at a time of necessary spending restraint."

The revelations come just a month after it emerged that Mr Cameron overruled strongly worded civil service advice and boosted the golden goodbyes he gave his special advisers.

He ignored concerns raised by civil service chief executive John Manzoni to hand his staff an extra £282,000 in severance pay because of his resignation.

Seven out of 10 of the Downing Street advisers reappointed after last year's general election - and who therefore became entitled to bigger severance packages - received pay rises of up to 24% in 2015, according to Civil Service World.

This far outstripped the 2% average pay award across the private sector in 2015.

Adam Atashzai, one of the spads given an enhanced severance package, saw his salary increase from less than £58,200 in 2014 to £72,000 in 2015 - up 24%.

He was also awarded an MBE in Mr Cameron's resignation honours list.

Ameet Gill, former director of strategy, and Liz Sugg, former head of operations at No 10, both reportedly received pay rises of 23% - sending their salaries from £80,000 in 2014 to £98,000 in 2015.

Ms Sugg was given a life peerage in the wake of Mr Cameron's resignation.

Special adviser Kate Marley went from being on pay band one in 2014 which is capped at £54,121, to earning £65,000 in 2015, an increase of at least 20%, it was reported.

Daniel Korski, former deputy director of the No 10 policy unit, had a 16% pay increase from £80,000 in 2014 to £93,000 in 2015, it was reported.

Special adviser Nick Seddon, who was awarded an MBE, benefited from an 11% pay rise last year, with his salary increased to £88,000, Civil Service World said.

Other advisers and speechwriters including Max Chambers, Laura Trott, Richard Parr, Martha Varney, and Kate Shouesmith all enjoyed pay increases, according to the report.

Frances Trivett, the political private secretary to the prime minister's chiefs of staff, progressed from being in a pay band capped at £40,352 a year, to pay band one in 2015 - capped at £52,999 a year.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "Decisions about special adviser salaries take into account various factors including the level of responsibility associated with a particular role and the background and experience of the individual concerned.

"These increases, which were agreed by the then prime minister, reflected changes to the scope and range of responsibility in the roles of a number of special advisers following their reappointment after the 2015 general election."

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: "We knew David Cameron was guilty of cronyism by doling out honours to his mates and closest supporters, but the decision to award advisers huge pay rises in his final year in office is an insult to the thousands of hard-working civil servants who were forced to endure years of pay freezes under his government.

"It also resulted in Cameron's advisers receiving far larger pay-outs when they left their jobs in June. It's uber-cronyism, it's totally unacceptable and Theresa May should claw the money back."

A Downing Street spokesman said the special adviser pay rises dated back to the start of the Conservative-only administration following the 2015 general election and reflected changes in roles due to the move from coalition to single-party government.

"A decision was taken by the then prime minister that these reflected the changes in the scope and range of their responsibility in going from a coalition government to a single-party government on their reappointment in 2015," said the spokesman.

"Decisions about pay take into account the various factors of level of responsibility across government."

Asked whether Theresa May's administration stood by Mr Cameron's decision, the spokesman said: "It was a decision made by the previous regime. They were pay awards set in line with policy for people's changing roles."

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