Assault begins on housing directors’ pay

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More than 50 executives at social housing bodies received higher salaries than the prime minister last year, the government revealed last night, in its latest salvo against high pay in the public sector.

John Belcher, former chief executive of Anchor Trust, a large London-based housing association, was paid £391,000 in 2008-09 – although he has since left the job – according to figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Anchor defended the payment, saying it reflected that it was a “large and complex” organisation serving 50,000 people.

L&Q, another London-based association, paid one of its directors £321,000 while Places for People gave one director a remuneration package of £297,929.

The figures are striking because they exceed not only David Cameron’s salary of £142,500 but also that of Sir Gus O’Donnell – who as cabinet secretary runs the entire civil service – at £235,000.

“This government will champion a new era of transparency by shining a bright light on how hard-earned taxpayers’ cash is being spent,” said Grant Shapps, housing minister.

“I can see no reason why housing charities who themselves receive public funds should be exempt from this important process.”

Housing associations are partly funded by government grants and provide housing to those most in need of subsidised accommodation.

In recent years they have grown rapidly to compensate for the fact that councils have almost stopped building housing altogether.

Mr Shapps, who has no power to prevent these bodies paying their directors high salaries, hopes that such “routine” publication could have a restraining effect.

Among the other highly paid directors were an unnamed executive at Affinity Sutton, on £260,263, and the chief executive of Sanctuary, on £260,000.

The National Housing Federation, which represents the sector, said: “Chief executives’ salaries are set by independent boards following a rigorous assessment of their value to the organisation.” Those boards had tenant representatives, it said.

The data were published a day after the government produced the salaries of all 172 civil servants with pay exceeding £150,000, a process initiated by Gordon Brown when he was prime minister.

The government plans to include other publicly funded bodies, including the BBC and Network Rail, and drop the threshold for disclosure to £58,000.

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