Pay cut for 'fat cat' academy chiefs earning more than the Prime Minister

Posted on: 2018-06-25 08:00:00

Of the 117 academy trust heads who were paid more than £150,000 last year, 18 have now agreed to cut their pay so they will be making less than Theresa May.

It came after a warning from the government that executives must “justify” their salaries through a transparent, “robust evidence-based process”, in a bid to ensure value for the taxpayer.

It will be seen as the latest ministerial offensive against the “ratcheting up” of executive pay in the education sector, following similar controversy over the “excessive” salaries given to university vice-chancellors.

Jonathan Slater, the DfE’s Permanent Secretary, told the public accounts committee yesterday that he wrote to all 117 academy chiefs who were paid more than £150,000, asking them to justify their salaries.

He said he expected more academy heads to follow suit in cutting their own pay, adding: “I don’t think 18 is going to be the limit of the change.”

He said the DfE is “now turning our attention to trusts that are paying somebody between £100,000 and £150,000”.

He said the pay reductions came about “as a consequence of engagement between us and them”.

Ministers, MPs, and education leaders have lined up to criticise the academy trust heads who are paid hundreds of thousands each year in public money.

In a report earlier this year, MPs warned that academies are using taxpayers’ money to give “unjustifiably” high salaries to senior staff, warning that high wages could ‘become the norm’ and pile more pressure onto school budgets.

The MPs went on to warn that “excessive trustee salaries deprive the frontline of vital funds”, adding that the DfE has “no easy way” of linking performance with pay, and so cannot know whether those earning large pay packages are those responsible for the best-performing schools.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the public accounts committee, said at the time: “It is not clear why these salaries are justified, especially in a time of pay restraint for teachers.

“Schools are not a business, they are taxpayer-funded and must be transparent and accountable.”

The highest paid academy chiefs earn up to £550,000 once pension contributions are included - more than three times the Prime Minister’s salary.

One executive - Jon Whitcombe, chief of executive of the Swale Academies Trust - was even given use of a company BMW worth thousands of pounds, on top of his £170,000 salary.

The trust defended the perk last year by insisting that, as a “hands-on CEO”, Mr Whitcombe needed to drive between the trusts’ 17 schools.

One head who agreed to cut her own salary was Debbie Godfrey-Phaure, the chief executive of Avonbourne Trust, which runs four schools in Bournemouth.

Her pay fell from around £150,000 in 2016 to £88,913 last year, it was reported, a reduction of more than 40 percent.

She said she agreed to the cut due to financial pressures at the trust.

Academies have much more control over their own finances than schools run by local authorities.

In a sweeping education reform initiated by Tony Blair and continued under David Cameron and Theresa May, most secondary schools in England have now been converted into academies.

Source: Telegraph

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