Yesterday, we learnt that Network Rail has gained approval for bonuses amounting to £2.4 million, one hundred per cent of which is being paid by you, the taxpayer. Amidst some very tough decisions across the public sector in recent weeks, it seems extraordinary that Iain Coucher, the company’s departing Chief Executive, can justify his mammoth £641,000 bonus payment. He will receive this on top of his salary of £805,000; adding up to a total annual pay packet of £1,447,000, more than twice the figure he received last year.
On Wednesday, John O’Connell blogged on bonuses at the Home Office, discussing how a monumental 8.6 per cent of the entire pay bill is set aside for bonuses. At Network Rail is an even more extreme case. Despite it technically being a private company it is effectively a part of the public sector and we have included it in the Public Sector Rich List as an organisation the Government is ultimately responsible for. How, in the present climate, is it right that the company’s ruling body has the power to vote in favour of such huge bonuses when ordinary families are facing tax hikes?
Both the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary, Phillip Hammond, have spoken out against Network Rail’s decision. David Cameron expressed his “deep disappointment”, while Hammond even wrote a letter to the ruling body pleading with them to exercise pay restraint before the vote was cast. If there was ever a case of ‘weak-words’, this was it.
The fact that the ruling was passed by 37 votes to 31 is a measure of the dissatisfaction, even within Network Rail’s own administration. The rail networks regulatory body, The Office of Rail Regulation, also advised against excessive rewards for what it deemed to be ''mixed performance''. There have been some advances made in 2009/10, with average annual delays decreasing by 7.7% over the 12 month period, however it is incomprehensible to think that these slight gains warrant such mammoth rewards for Network Rail bosses.
By Jago Pearson