Major probe reveals public sector squanders £5.6bn of your cash 

A shocking waste of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is exposed by the Mail today.

A major investigation has found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries, feathering Whitehall mandarins’ nests and a wide range of jaw-dropping projects.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation’s finances after spending hundreds of billions tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

The investigation – carried out with the TaxPayers’ Alliance – involved more than 4,000 Freedom of Information requests, and the analysis of thousands of government contracts and databases. 

Ofcom’s new chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes (pictured with Prince William at Buckingham Palace) pocketed between £15,000 and £20,000 on top of her salary

Ofcom’s new chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes (pictured with Prince William at Buckingham Palace) pocketed between £15,000 and £20,000 on top of her salary 

The exact waste figure the Mail arrived at was £5,577,988,036.64.

Our probe into the state sector gravy train exposed how:

  • Whitehall mandarins banked at least £42 million in bonuses last year, and taxpayers stumped up £81 million for trade union representatives to take time off work;
  • Thousands were spent on first-class flights at the Treasury;
  • Millions were earmarked for government staff to work from home, including the purchase of designer furniture;
  • Hipster takeaways worth a total of £50,000 were ferried to the health department during lockdown;
  • Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on a day at the zoo;
  • Almost £500,000 was shelled out on an art collection the public never sees.

Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: ‘There is no magic money pot – this is taxpayers’ money that’s being spent at a time when the low-paid and hard-working people have seen a massive cut in income or lost their livelihood.

‘It’s important that everyone responsible for the management of taxpayers’ money is held to account and the Daily Mail’s investigation is a vital part of that accountability. All public servants need to remember whose money it is and be careful about their spending.

‘Meals in luxury restaurants are not necessary and not on when so many people are relying on food banks.’

The major investigation found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries. Pictured: Covent Garden's The Delaunay

The major investigation found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries. Pictured: Covent Garden’s The Delaunay 

 

Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on luxury beds for dogs

Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on luxury beds for dogs

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spent £20,160 for a photographic print called Shadows and Disturbances by Zarina Bhimji

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spent £20,160 for a photographic print called Shadows and Disturbances by Zarina Bhimji

Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen in East London, which has a food van it calls Honey Boo Boo was paid £50,000 of taxpayer cash to supply Matt Hancock’s health department with Filipino food in the first weeks of the pandemic

Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen in East London, which has a food van it calls Honey Boo Boo was paid £50,000 of taxpayer cash to supply Matt Hancock’s health department with Filipino food in the first weeks of the pandemic

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Boris Johnson’s Government is wasting so much money, their competence in spending taxpayers’ money has to be seriously questioned.

‘Ministers have been on a spending spree with taxpayers’ credit cards – and look set to charge us the interest.’

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This investigation is just the tip of the iceberg.

‘Tens of billions of pounds are still squandered each year, and if we eradicate waste it leaves the room for lower, simpler taxes, promoting economic growth and funding better public services. 

‘The Chancellor must stop writing blank cheques using taxpayers’ money – and wasteful bureaucrats must end the absurd claims that there are simply no more savings to be found.’

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation's finances

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation’s finances

In his spending review on Wednesday, Mr Sunak will announce a £3 billion package to support the NHS in recovering from the pandemic – a massive amount, but only half the amount the Mail has uncovered as waste. 

Similarly, nearly four million public-sector workers, including soldiers, police officers and teachers, face a pay freeze next year, which is expected to save £3.4 billion.

The Chancellor last night vowed to carry on spending as he hinted that major tax rises will be delayed until the ‘fog of uncertainty’ caused by the pandemic has cleared. But he acknowledged the pandemic had triggered an ‘economic shock’ that would require tough decisions on tax and spending in future.

The Mail’s investigation highlights how Mr Sunak’s own department, the Treasury, invoiced the taxpayer £23,400 for travel, including first-class air fares, earlier this year.

The Mail also analysed the spending of government procurement cards since January. They represent only a fraction of overall public expenditure, but are a mine of information.

Some of the most outlandish purchases were made via these electronic cards, similar to debit or credit cards.

A Government spokesman, on behalf of Whitehall departments, said: ‘We are committed to delivering the best value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way. 

‘We routinely publish our expenditure to maintain transparency and ensure that we are held to account by Parliament, the Press and the public.’

Mandarin’s £42million bonus bonanza 

Whitehall officials banked at least £42 million in bonuses last year – and the true figure is likely to be much higher, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Civil servants at the Ministry of Defence pocketed the lion’s share of salary top-ups, with the department spending more than £12.2 million on bonus packages.

Bureaucrats on salaries of almost £200,000 were handed cheques for up to £20,000, while up to £25,000 was pocketed by a department boss earning more than £130,000.

Civil servants at the Ministry of Defence pocketed the lion's share of salary top-ups, an investigation has found . (Stock image)

Civil servants at the Ministry of Defence pocketed the lion’s share of salary top-ups, an investigation has found . (Stock image)

News of hefty bonuses to senior staff – many already on six-figure salaries – will anger taxpayers, most of whom earn a fraction of public sector staff’s lucrative pay packets.

The £42.4 million in bonus packages is thought to be only the tip of the iceberg. 

The figure is based on 14 responses to Freedom of Information requests asking for details of bonus pay – meaning only a third of the Government’s 43 ministerial and non-ministerial departments provided figures – and details from two annual reports.

The Mail’s investigation shows that the Competition and Markets Authority paid chief operating officer Erik Wilson, who earns up to £135,000 a year, a bonus of up to £25,000. 

The watchdog’s chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, who earns between £190,000 and £195,000 – pocketed up to £20,000.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which worked with the Mail in uncovering the figures, criticised the lavish bonus payments and called for the ‘gold-plated bonuses’ to be cut.

Chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, Andrea Coscelli, who earns between £190,000 and £195,000 – pocketed up to £20,000

Chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, Andrea Coscelli, who earns between £190,000 and £195,000 – pocketed up to £20,000

Chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, John O'Connell, criticised the lavish bonus payments and called for the 'gold-plated bonuses' to be cut

Chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, John O’Connell, criticised the lavish bonus payments and called for the ‘gold-plated bonuses’ to be cut

Bonuses are awarded to staff based on performance at an individual, team or organisational level and assessed by each department. 

The Government launched a review of public sector bonuses in 2012 after outrage over pay-outs at bodies such as Royal Bank of Scotland.

Dame’s £170k salary…and £20k bonus

Dame Melanie Dawes with Prince William

Dame Melanie Dawes with Prince William

Ofcom’s new chief executive was handed the largest slice of the Ministry of Housing’s £1.06 million bonus pot last year.

Dame Melanie Dawes, who moved to the broadcasting regulator in February, pocketed between £15,000 and £20,000 on top of her salary as permanent secretary – which, at more than £170,000, already exceeded Boris Johnson’s pay packet.

The former Whitehall mandarin, 54, also received £23,900 in pension contributions, despite sitting on a pension pot of almost £1 million in 2016/17 – three years before she left the Civil Service.

Six of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s senior civil servants – all on salaries of at least £90,000 – pocketed bonuses worth up to £95,000 combined.

Jeremy Pocklington, who took over from Dame Melanie in March, was also given a bonus of up to £20,000. He is on a salary of between £135,000 and £140,000.

Dame Melanie had been the most senior woman in the Civil Service. She is thought to be on about £315,000 a year as Ofcom chief executive.

Former Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander wrote to all Whitehall departments at the time, asking them to examine their reward structures to ensure only ‘genuine excellence’ is recognised.

Public sector pay was frozen for two years up to 2013, then capped at 1 per cent rises for five more years. In July, pay was increased by up to 3.1 per cent, but workers say they have incurred nearly a decade of real-term pay cuts.

At the end of March, 6,450 Whitehall employees were at ‘senior civil service’ level, up from 4,300 five years earlier. Their median salary was £81,440 – three times the average across all ranks of £28,180. 

The MoD said its payouts were made up of £11.7 million to ‘below senior civil service’ staff and £595,410 to senior staff on ‘standard contracts’.

The figures are likely to infuriate those on the front-line of the Armed Forces whose staff numbers have fallen for nine consecutive years. Many who left cited poor pay as the main reason.

Also topping up civil servants’ pay by thousands was the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which spent £4.3 million on rewarding staff.

The Department for Transport made payouts of almost £9 million, while the Home Office figure was more than £8.1million. Several bodies would not disclose details of the highest bonus payments, claiming the figures would be published in annual reports.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was unable to provide a total figure, stating bonus payments have ‘not yet been paid in their entirety’.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs spent almost £2.5 million on bonus payments to more than 5,000 members of staff ‘for both sustained performance and exceptional contributions’.

Mr O’Connell said: ‘Taxpayers will be baffled at the bonuses being handed out to public sector fat cats.

‘People in the private sector are worried enough about keeping their own jobs, let alone the thought that they should fund big bonuses for government officials.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are committed to delivering the best value for money. We routinely publish our expenditure to maintain transparency.’

 …and they’re sitting on £1million gold-plated pension nest eggs

Mandarins have amassed £1million-plus ‘gold-plated’ pension pots with vast annual payments guaranteed when they finally retire.

Senior civil servants – dubbed the ‘pension aristocracy’ – are sitting on lucrative nest eggs that would cost millions more to buy on the annuity market.

Pension pots for the leading 23 civil servants totalled £24.5million in 2018-2019, the last year for which data exists, the Mail can reveal.

Thirteen had pension pots worth more than £1million, only two of whom were women. Those with the biggest nest eggs are guaranteed payments on retirement of £87,500 a year, almost ten times the full annual state pension of just over £9,100.

Senior civil servants are sitting on lucrative nest eggs that would cost millions more to buy on the annuity market. (Stock image)

Senior civil servants are sitting on lucrative nest eggs that would cost millions more to buy on the annuity market. (Stock image)

On top of this, 15 department heads will receive a lump sum on retirement – the average value of this is £148,167.

News of the figures is likely to outrage private-sector workers who have seen the value of their pensions plummet on the stock market.

Generous final salary schemes have been almost wiped out as bosses are unwilling to bear the cost or risk of running them.

The mandarins’ pensions are referred to as gold-plated because after retirement they get a guaranteed income for life linked to inflation. Simon McDonald, head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is sitting on the largest nest egg valued at £2.05million.

Sir Mark Sedwill, former Cabinet Secretary, received a £250,000 ‘golden goodbye’ when he stepped down in September and also has a pension pot of £1.5million, or £87,500 annually.

Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said it would cost those with a private pension at least £3.5million to buy such a package on the annuity market. She added: ‘I call them the pension aristocracy.’

Former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, received a £250,000 'golden goodbye' when he stepped down in September

Former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, received a £250,000 ‘golden goodbye’ when he stepped down in September

Clare Moriarty, former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, had a pension pot worth £1.6million at the end of March 2019.

Miss Moriarty, a civil servant for 35 years, took on the post in April 2019 after three years in the same role at the Department for the Environment.

The other woman on the list of those with pensions of £1million-plus is Bernadette Kelly, permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, with a retirement package worth £1.39million.

A Government source said overall remuneration is constantly reviewed so it is affordable and competitive with the private sector.

They added the civil service pension scheme has been reformed twice and it is not unusual for senior staff to accumulate large pots towards the end of their careers.

We pay £81million so union reps can take time off!

By Sian Boyle for The Daily Mail

Taxpayers have paid out more than £81million in a single year to subsidise the work of trade unions.

More than 16,224 union representatives have been given taxpayer-funded time away from their public sector jobs to carry out union work – including planning strikes.

At least 920 of them were paid to work full-time for their unions – spending no time on the jobs they were hired to do.

In central government alone, staff were paid more than £10.1million for union work, known as ‘facility time’.

Staff at the Ministry of Justice received the most – £2.3million – in one year, according to the Government’s latest facility time report.

They were followed by workers at HMRC, who worked £2.2million worth of hours for their unions.

Councils and local authorities paid out £39.8million in trade union facility time, colleges and universities £13.8million and hospital trusts and NHS bodies £10.9million.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Most taxpayers are not aware of the subsidies they are paying to public sector trade unions, many of whom simply lobby for even more cash from the taxpayers’ pocket via better pay, pensions and perks.

‘Trade unions are voluntary bodies of members and so should only receive the support of those members, not taxpayers.’

Union reps are legally entitled to paid time off for duties such as negotiating pay or discussing industrial action with managers as part of negotiations.

Overall, there were more than 21,500 trade union representatives across the public sector in 2018-19. At the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), 1,210 employees spent up to half of their working hours with trade unions.

At HMRC and the Ministry of Justice, 897 and 602 representatives respectively spent up to half their time with their unions.

On average, 0.27 per cent of all public sector pay was spent on union facility time in 2018-19, the last year for which full data is available.

Figures for the financial year 2019-20 show Transport for London (TfL) – which is partially funded by the taxpayer – spent £8.7million on union facility time.

TfL had 857 union reps on its staff payroll in 2019-20 of which 40 were full time.

On top of that 776 spent up to half of their time, and 41 people spent up to 99 per cent of their time with their unions.

TfL has requested a £1billion taxpayer-funded bailout to keep the capital’s transport system running, and was given an 11th-hour two-week funding extension in October.

A TfL spokesman said: ‘We allow representatives paid time off to carry out union duties, accounting for 0.4 per cent of our total wage bill over the last year.

‘The number of representatives for our 27,000 employees is in line with legislation and guidelines from ACAS.’

Trade unions say facility time spent on union work is vital because they help maintain good relations between workers and employers. The TUC says that facility time reduces the number of job dismissals by 25,000 each year, cuts down working days lost due to injury and illness, and improves the productivity of employees.

But critics argue that with public funding so squeezed, and with unions employing their own full-time staff, less taxpayer money should be spent on union time – especially on planning strikes.

‘At a time when many employers are making redundancies and workplace safety is under scrutiny during the pandemic, union reps have never been more vital,’ said a spokesman for the TUC.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are committed to delivering the best value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.’

The Government made clear that facility time accounts for 1/2000 of the Government’s total pay bill, below the targets set by the Cabinet Office.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, one of the largest civil service unions, said its reps ‘have been doing vital work making workplaces Covid secure and without them, many services such as job centres and tax offices would not be functioning during this pandemic’.

A spokesman for the NHS said: ‘Facility time costs to the NHS in England amount to less than 0.008 per cent of total funding and are considerably lower than the target of 0.06 per cent set by government.’     

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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