MPs criticise charities' senior staff pay in Daily Mail article

27 Aug 2019 News

The Daily Mail has published an article criticising high pay for senior members of staff at some of the country’s best-known charities. 

In its response to the article the Charity Commission revealed plans to publish a report on senior charity staff pay.

The newspaper reported on Saturday that charities including the RSPCA and Macmillan Cancer Support had offered their highest earners pay increases, according to their most recently filed accounts.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s accounts for the year to December 2018 show that chief executive Lynda Thomas earned between £180,000 and £190,000, up from £170,000 to £180,000 the previous year. The charity told the Mail this increase was in line with inflation.

Meanwhile, wildlife charity WWF UK paid an employee other than its chief executive £180,000 to £190,000 in the year to June 2018, compared to the £120,000 to £130,000 its highest paid employee earned the year before. The charity said this was due to a “one-off anomaly”.

The Mail article followed widespread criticism about the £200,000 bonus that Marie Stopes International gave its highest paid member of staff in the year to December 2018.

Conservative MP David Davies told the Mail: “It is extraordinary that charitable organisations and charity bosses are giving themselves bigger pay rises than some people receive in their annual salary.

“When we put money in a box for a good cause, it is without realising how much of the money is being used to fund the enormous, eye-watering pay rises for bosses of these organisations.”

Fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: “I would like to see at the point of giving, whether that's in the street or online, every charity clearly display the percentage of every pound which goes to the good cause and what goes to administration.

“That would empower the giver to select charities that are most efficient at distributing the largest amounts to worthy causes. This would encourage charities to streamline operations.”

Commission to publish charity pay report

In response to the Mail’s article, Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson said: “This is an area the public care about, and it matters to us as the regulator, and indeed we are now looking closely at senior pay in charities.”

The Commission plans to publish a report on senior staff pay at charities after it has received data from most organisations by October 2019.

Since last year, the Commission has required charities to provide it with details of the take-home pay of their highest earner every year as part of their annual returns.

The Commission said that where necessary, it would take regulatory action against individual charities.

It said its overall aim is to ensure charities understand and respond to public expectations about the way that charities behave.

Mail report ‘misleading’

Meanwhile, Kristiana Wrixon, head of policy at ACEVO, said: “The Daily Mail article claimed that ‘many charity chief executives earn more than the prime minister’. This is misleading, 91 per cent of charities in the UK are run by volunteers and of those that pay staff the average salary is £52,000 per year.

“I wouldn’t want to put a cap on charity CEO pay as ‘charity’ is a broad term that can encompass organisations of many types and sizes, some of them hugely complex.

“The focus of the conversation should instead be on the principles of good pay: transparency, proportionality, performance, recruitment and retention and process.”

Civil Society Media's Charity Finance magazine will next week publish the findings of the latest Chief Executives Survey 2019, which found that the average salary for a chief executive at one of the 100 largest charities in the UK has risen to £155,000, up from £150,000 in 2017. Subscribe to Charity Finance online.


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