At a time when the Conservatives have inflicted draconian cuts on those needing financial support because of illness, disability or losing their job, justifying this by their claim of “economic necessity” and the need to “live within our means” to “pay down the debt”, which is increasing rather than decreasing, the “responsibilities” imposed by the Tory austerity measures apply only to those with the very least.
Meanwhile, Whitehall bureaucrats, many involved in the implementation of the punitive welfare cuts, pocketed more than £90million in hand-outs last year.
Figures obtained by The Huffington Post UK show that in the year to April, 12 Government departments forked out £89.4million in bonuses to staff.
The most rewarding was Department for Work and Pensions, overseen by Iain Duncan Smith, which handed out £42.1million in bonuses to its staff – £38.1million of which went to Senior Civil Servants. And these figures only relate to 12 out of the 20 Government departments, meaning the total bonus figure could soar to almost £140million if the average pay out of almost £7million per department continues.
Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, who uncovered the figures, said: “For all his talk of belt-tightening, these figures show that David Cameron is happy to splash the cash on bonuses.
“Whilst the NHS is in crisis, this bonus bonanza would pay for thousands of new nurses.”
In 2012, the then Treasury minister Danny Alexander vowed to end bonuses for “run of the mill performance” as the coalition Government slashed departmental budgets.
Since 2010-11 the Government says it has restricted awards for senior civil servants to the “top 25 per cent of performers.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union called for the bonus system to be scrapped.
He said: “It is unfair and favours the already well paid. The money should be put towards decent pay rises, especially considering that since 2010 rank and file civil servants have seen their real incomes fall by 20 per cent.”
Prospect, a union for professionals, defended the civil service workers and he claimed the focus on bonuses is a “distraction” from the drop in take home pay of many civil servants.
Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Pay in the private sector is increasingly buoyant with average increases running at more than 3.5 per cent. Civil servants have been told that average increases will be capped at 1 per cent until 2020.
“Pay rates in the private sector outstrip those of the public sector – and that gap is only forecast to increase, creating real problems in recruiting and retaining staff, particularly the professional specialists and managers Prospect represents.
“Many, if not all of our members would happily forgo the opportunity to earn a bonus in return for a decent and fair increase to their base pay.
“Government has created the bonus culture in the civil service, not the staff. And only 1 per cent of the civil service paybill is spent on bonuses.”
In a statement alongside his department’s figures, Work and Pensions Minister Justin Tomlinson said: “In line with Civil Service pay guidance, DWP rewards employees for their performance through either end of year non-consolidated payments and/or in-year payments. In year payments are limited to 0.23 per cent of the total DWP paybill.
I can’t help wondering what indicators are used to measure “performance,” and what actually constitutes “good performance.”
This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.