Whitehall bonuses under threat as total hits £26m

Thousands of top civil servants have come under pressure to give up their bonuses after it was revealed they totalled £26m last year.

In 2008, 2,600 senior civil servants working in Whitehall received millions of pounds worth of bonuses, worth an average £6,500 each for hitting performance targets, reported ITV News at Ten. In some cases, the bonuses were equivalent to staff getting an extra £200 a week.

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman who compiled the figures from answers to parliamentary questions, claimed the bonuses were often for nothing more than “getting out of bed”.

Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell agreed to give up his bonus – thought to be about £13,000 – this year because of the recession. Pressure is mounting on other senior Whitehall staff to do the same.

The figures showed that:

  • 141 senior civil servants in the Department for Business, shared a bonus pot worth £1.2m.
  • Top civil servants at the Department of Health shared £1.9 in bonuses.
  • Senior staff at the Department for Transport received bonuses worth more than £1.1m.
  • At the Department for Children, Families and Schools, bonuses totalled £800,000.

Oakeshott said: “Top civil servants get salaries averaging £1,500 per week and generous indexed-linked final salary pensions, which are extinct in the private sector.

“They should not need £200-a-week bonuses on top to get them out of bed in the morning. We must change back from a bonus culture to a public service culture.

A senior civil servant is classed as an official that earns between £57,300 and £273,250 per year.

However, the Cabinet Office insisted the bonus system used was actually a system for cutting the pay of officials who failed to meet performance targets.

A spokesman said: “If they do not perform strongly, they do not get any of this money. It’s not so much a bonus for doing well as a pay cut if they don’t deliver.

“In January, permanent secretaries volunteered to waive any performance-related pay they would have received this year, and in March, the government announced that senior civil servants would receive a below-inflation pay settlement for 2009-10.”

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