Taxpayers' alliance criticises Wales Office bonuses

We are, as chancellor George Osborne likes to remind us, all in it together.

Public sector workers have endured a pay freeze followed by a one per cent cap on annual salary increases.

Or have they? Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act suggest a bonus system is allowing civil servants to get around the pay restraint imposed by the government.

Almost one fifth of the 50 or so staff at the Wales Office received a bonus last year. On average, the bonus was worth £2,004 - considerably more than the one per cent increase others in the public sector received. One civil servant was given a £7,500 bonus.

The figures follow publication of the Wales Office's annual report, in which it suggested it was "building upon success" in its role or promoting Welsh interests in the UK government.

The Taxpayers' Alliance was not impressed. A spokesman said: "The government rightly ordered a pay freeze to help cut the bloated public-sector wage bill, so taxpayers will be justifiably angry if the Wales Office seems to be ignoring the edict by handing out thousands in bonuses instead.

"Far too often in the public sector, we see bonuses getting doled out as a matter of course to people simply for doing their job.

"Considering public sector workers already enjoy far better pay and pensions than their private sector counterparts and the fact that the nation's finances remain in a dire state, these bonus payments look unjustifiable - especially when so many families are struggling to make ends meet."

Over to the Wales Office, where a spokesperson said: "As the Wales Office is not an employer, decisions as to whether staff should be awarded a performance bonus and the amount they should receive, are determined by the pay terms and conditions of the department that the individual is contracted to."

The Wales Office regards performance-related pay - bonus - as separate from the issue of pay restraint, which it says it adheres to. Although 25 per cent of senior civil servants receive bonuses, this is far less than the 65 per cent who got them before 2010-11.