UK Politics

Labour calls Cameron aides' pay rises 'uber cronyism'

David Cameron speaking outside Downing Street as he left office in July Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Cameron resigned after he lost the referendum on EU membership

Theresa May is being urged to "claw back" money paid to some of David Cameron's former advisers after it was reported that they were given pay rises of up to 24% last year.

Civil Service World reported that seven out of ten Downing Street special advisers got pay rises of as much as £14,976 after last year's election.

It follows controversy over the size of severance packages to the ex-PM's aides after his resignation in July.

Labour said it was "uber-cronyism".

But the Cabinet Office said the pay increases reflected changes in responsibility and roles among Mr Cameron's staff after last year's Conservative election victory.

The ex-prime minister has already been criticised for giving 17 former advisers larger pay-offs than they were contractually entitled to upon his exit from Downing Street and giving many of them recognition in his resignation honours list.

The decision to give his advisers redundancy pay equivalent to six months salary each amounted to individual packages of £70,000 in certain cases.

The move was challenged at the time by the head of the civil service John Manzoni, who took the unusual step of asking Mr Cameron to give him a written ministerial direction to authorise the payments.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Liz Sugg (left) was among those to enjoy a double-digit salary increase

Civil Service World said its own research suggested most of the special advisers involved had already received inflation-busting pay increases less than a year before.

'Triple whammy'

Those who received double-digit increases after the May 2015 victory, it said, included former director of strategy Ameet Gill, former head of operations Liz Sugg and Daniel Korski - deputy director of the Downing Street Policy Unit.

Although the total amount spent on special advisers last year has yet to be published, the magazine said it was estimated to be £8.4m - a substantial increase on the last year of the Labour government in 2009-2010 when it totalled £6.8m.

In opposition, Mr Cameron criticised the amount spent on special advisers - known around Westminster as spads - and said this should be reduced as part of a general drive to cut the cost of politics.

But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said it was clear now that this was "empty rhetoric".

"This is a triple whammy - honours to cronies and a whacking great pay rise and then a bumped-up severance package," he said.

"This is frankly utterly shameless and the former PM should be ashamed."

Pay restraint

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson said such pay settlements were "totally unacceptable" at a time of continuing restraint in the public sector - pay rises on offer to most workers are capped at 1% - with average pay rises of 2% in the private sector.

"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," he said.

"It also resulted in Cameron's advisers receiving far larger pay-outs when they left their jobs in June. It's uber-cronyism and Theresa May should claw the money back."

Trade unions described the pay increases as "shameful" while the Taxpayers Alliance said the public would be "shocked" by them.

"While spads can help ministers implement their decisions it's important to strike a balance and deliver value for taxpayers," the campaign group's political director Dia Chakravarty said.

But the Cabinet Office said the pay rises had been approved in the normal fashion by the former prime minister.

"Decisions about special adviser salaries take into account various factors including the level of responsibility associated with a particular role and the background and experience of the individual concerned," it said.

"These increases reflected changes to the scope and range of responsibility in the roles of a number of special advisers following their reappointment after the election."

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