David Cameron has been accused of “uber-cronyism” after it emerged Downing Street special advisers were awarded pay rises of up to a quarter, months before he intervened to secure some of the same staff increased severance packages.
It has emerged that the former prime minister had the salaries of some of his advisers boosted by as much as £18,000, or up to 24 per cent despite most public sector workers having their pay increases capped at 1 per cent. Downing Street said the pay rises were triggered by the end of the coalition government, when Conservative appointees took on greater responsibility following the departure of Liberal Democrat colleagues. However, Theresa May sought to distance herself from the decision, with her spokesman saying it had been taken by the “previous regime”.
The pay rises have been condemned by unions and opposition parties, with Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron saying Mr Cameron should feel “ashamed”. Seven out of ten of the Downing Street advisers reappointed after last year’s general election received pay rises. At least four were also given honours in Mr Cameron’s controversial resignation honours list.
Following Mr Cameron’s departure, several advisers were also awarded increased severance packages beyond what was set out in their contracts to compensate them for the sudden end of his government.
Senior members of his staff took home an extra £282,000 between them after the Prime Minister overruled concerns of the chief executive of the civil service.
Mr Farron said: “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 per cent pay rise given to nurses, teachers and public sector workers and the 2 per cent average pay award across the private sector in 2015.
“This is frankly utterly shameless and the former PM should be ashamed.”
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.”
Asked whether Mrs May’s administration stood by Mr Cameron’s decision, a Downing Street 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.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior officials, said: “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, said: “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.”
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “Decisions about special adviser salaries take into account various factors.
“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.”