Wednesday 23 December 2009


Times are hard. Many people who were working this time last year in shops, factories, warehouses, even banks and insurance offices, and who are now on the dole know this. Many people being asked to reduce their hours or take unpaid leave just to keep their company afloat know this, and goodness knows poor soldiers out in Afghanistan on around £20,000 a year for risking life and limb on our behalf know this.

Why then is it that the Daily Telegraph is reporting that £130 million in bonuses has been paid out to Civil Servants in the last year? Some senior civil servants are getting as much as £50,000 in bonus payouts - twice as much as the threshold of the bankers’ bonus tax that Alistair Darling announced recently that he was levying on the City.

The new bonus figures will come as an embarrassment to Gordon Brown who recently talked about a “culture of excess” in some parts of the public sector and promised to bring about a new era of pay restraint in public bodies. He vowed to cut £100 million a year from the salaries of senior civil servants. Another Gordon Brown promise gone west?

The Cabinet Office confirmed that the bonuses relate, in the main, to the senior levels of the civil service, the upper-middle management and above. Well, I’d never have guessed, the people who make the decisions about bonuses are the ones that get them. The highest-spending department was the Ministry of Defence, while the Department for Work and Pensions paid out more than £23 million with a further £6 million allocated for in-year rewards. The Department for Transport set aside £12 million for bonus payments and the Foreign Office spent £7.6 million rewarding staff. One senior civil servant at the Department of Health received a payment of £49,004.

The bonuses are officially termed "non-consolidated performance payments". Ministers have sought to justify them by saying they were to reward "exceptional" performance and link pay to delivery across the year.

You wouldn’t mind so terribly much if any of these departments was working well, or even slightly efficiently. The Ministry of Defence has been criticized over and over again for deficiencies in the way it handles procurement and logistics among other things, for the troops in Afghanistan; the Dept of Work and Pensions seems almost totally incapable of getting people back to work; the Dept of Transport falls apart at the mere mention of snow. Excellent performance my posterior!

How much longer can we tolerate this nonsense?



  1. Mmmm can't think of anything to say about this story apart from how many civil servants got blown to pieces in Afghanistan in order to earn their bonuses ?
    Or how many soldiers would be alive today if they had been given proper weapons and armour and mission briefings ?
    Or how many soldiers would be alive today if they had been evacuated by helicopter ?
    Or how many soldiers would be alive today if they had been informed properly by the media before enlisting ?
    Or how many soldiers would be alive today if we had never got involved in this pointless quagmire that will make Vietnam look like a minor skirmish.

  2. The corruption has been going on so long these folks think they are entitled. There is no cure except to deconstruct the Union and start over.

  3. I wonder if their exceptional performance is similar to a private companies exceptional performance? I get a yearly bonus if we can keep faults and downtime below a certain percentage and it's by no means certain we'll get it, we also can get enhanced bonuses by increasing the companies profits by sales and infrastructure investment (damned near impossible in a recession)
    Over all though it's about saving the company money of which some is given back to us. Somehow I don't think public servants work to the same set of criteria though, I may be wrong but I think they see it as a perk for being there.

  4. Anon: Excellent points; well made.

    We blame the governments for the mess we are in (and heaven knows that there is plenty to blame for their useless policies, both sides), but, in fairness you can't expect a few ministers to have hands on control of everything that goes on in massive departments.

    The truth is that a lot of it is down to senior civil servants.

    The country has not been very well run for ever. We have all been brought up to believe that we have the best civil service in the world. I don't think the two things actually mesh very well.

    If they were in the private sector they wouldn’t get the bonuses based on tier performance, because their company would be broke.

  5. Scunnert: That gets my vote.

  6. QM: Yes, that's pretty much the way that bonuses work outside of the Civil Service. If the company makes a lot of money and you have been instrumental in its happening, you will get the bonus; it not, tough.

    The Civil Service in general has performend badly, why are they getting bonuses?