Monday, February 20, 2012
The obscene priorities of a bureaucratic state
Britain's Ministry of Defence civil servants paid £40m in bonuses while armed forces face deep cuts
One senior civil servant was awarded an £85,831 bonus on top of their six-figure salary - at the same time as members of the armed forces have been subject to a two-year pay freeze and 20,000 are to be made redundant.
The bonuses have been paid since April last year and have seen more than 55,000 officials awarded extra payments for their performance - out of a payroll of 83,000.
The ministry expects to pay more in bonuses in the current financial year than the last, even thought it is attempting to drastically reduce the number of civil servants as part of cuts to Government expenditure.
The MoD has been particularly heavily criticised for its financial performance, particularly in defence procurement where major projects have been criticised for being late and overspent.
The department has only just balanced its books by making deep cuts to Britain’s military - including the Army shrinking to its smallest size since the Boer War - which critics say could have been much less severe if it had not been so financially mismanaged.
Bonuses remain a controversial area of pay within the MoD and are linked to a complicated series of targets which can range from cost savings to hitting diversity targets.
Ministers have spoken of the need to rein in the bonus culture in Whitehall and make the payments genuine rewards for exceptional performances, rather than routine parts of civil servants’ remuneration.
However, The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the level of bonuses in the MoD are not expected to be reduced given that staff have faced a two year pay freeze.
In the past year 56 senior officials - those in the highest civil service grades - shared £505,000, averaging £9,000 each. Junior staff were handed a total of £37.9 million, typically taking home £697 - meaning 54,375 of its employees received bonuses, a level in contrast to ministers’ intention that bonuses are not given routinely.
The highest level of bonuses were awarded to the Department of Work and Pensions, whose employees scooped £51 million. The Department of Transport paid out £9.2million, the Foreign Office £6.4 million and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs £2.3 million. The Department for Education spent £1.9 million on bonuses, the Department for Health £1.7 million, the Cabinet Office £1.3million and the Department for Innovation and Skills £1.1million.
But it will be the two highest bonuses which raise most questions about the culture within the ministry.
The £85,831 payment - the same as the salary of a colonel in the Army - went to an unnamed senior civil servant who is understood to be a member of the Defence Board.
It oversees every aspect of the work of the MoD and includes three civil servants - Ursula Brennan, the permanent secretary, Bernard Gray, the chief of defence materiel and Jon Thompson, the director-general of finance.
The second largest bonus was a payment of £64,459 to another unnamed senior civil servant.
The scale of the bonuses raised concern even inside the MoD.
One source said: “Time and again we have been told that we all have to tighten our belts and share some of the financial pain so it sticks in the throat when you discover that someone already earning well over £100,000 gets an £85,000 bonus.”
The payments were made at the same time as criticisms mounted over the long-running performance of the MoD.
Last week it announced that it had finally closed the £38 billion “black hole” in its budget by balancing its books - but in November received stinging criticism over its procurement policies from the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
Margaret Hodge, its chairman, said the MoD had been guilty of “continuous poor planning and performance with the result that the Ministry of Defence’s largest military equipment projects are delivering less, at a greater cost than planned, and taking longer to be completed”.
The report found warned that Britain’s 15 biggest defence projects are expected to cost £6bn more than first estimated and will be delayed by a combined total of 26 years.
And it highlighted the repeatedly delayed Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, upon which £3.4bn was spent before it was scrapped, to save an estimated £1.9bn in running costs over the next 10 years.
The MoD said it was impossible to rein in bonuses this year because of a three-year pay and bonuses deal implemented by the previous Labour government.
But the payments are in stark contrast to the settlement for soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel, who have had pay rises capped at 1 per cent.
The deep cuts will see the Army made much smaller with a withdrawal from Germany, tank and artillery units slashed, the Ghurkas reduced in size and soldiers at every level made redundant and the RAF losing bases and planes.
The Navy has already lost its Harrier jump jets and now operates the smallest fleet in its history.
The Coalition is currently attempting to slash the levels of bonuses paid and the number of civil servants who receive them.
Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, have written to all government departments asking them to review their schemes.
In future, bonuses should only be paid for “genuine excellence” and not “run-of-the-mill performance after it emerged that up to a quarter of officials automatically qualified for rewards.
Since Britain went to war with Iraq in March 2003, MoD bureaucrats have shared around £370million in bonuses. This is a third higher than the £260million cost of the war in Libya.
It has also emerged that senior servants are entitled to claim for damaged clothing, handbags and shoes at the expense of the taxpayer even if the government department was not negligent.
A MOD spokesman said: “Difficult decisions have had to be taken to deal with the black hole the Government inherited; this has included reductions to military and civilian personnel.
"Under a three year agreement made by the last Government performance awards were part of the total wage bill paid out naturally, it is just that a proportion of pay was spent on a performance basis.
"More than half of all MOD civil servants earn less than £20,000 a year, and in 2010-11 the average award, which is taxable, was £677. The new Government has since implemented a pay freeze.”
The bonus figure comes after the disclosure that senior civil servants across Whitehall have perks which include being able to claim towards to cost of clothes and shoes which have been damaged or even simply become worn.
More woes from living in bureaucratic Britain
Four-hour delays at Heathrow thanks to immigration staff shortage as tens of thousands of passengers return from half-term getaway. Britain's huge bureaucracy still cannot provide basic services
Passengers at Heathrow airport are facing severe delays this weekend as a shortage of immigration staff causes chaos during the busy rush of families returning from half-term breaks to the UK.
Travellers may be forced to wait several hours before they get through immigration because of apparent staff shortages.
Sky news home affairs correspondent Mark White said: 'This has all the potential to be a very difficult weekend for passengers. 'The airlines at Heathrow have issued an urgent bulletin to staff saying they're expecting delays of up to three hours. 'It's a combination of half-term holidaymakers returning to Heathrow but also apparently lower staffing levels at immigration checkpoints.'
British Airways admitted congestion was already starting to build up in the immigration area in Terminal Five. A BA spokeswoman said: 'We are speaking to Heathrow Airport and UK Border Agency to understand why the immigration area in Terminal Five is congested. 'We are doing all we can to assist our customers and are sorry that they are being affected by this issue, which is regrettably beyond our control.'
A Heathrow Airport spokesman said they were unaware of any immigration staff shortages - claiming it didn't come under their remit. A spokesman for Heathrow added: 'No one has notified us of a staff shortage. However it is up to UK Border Agency to staff the border appropriately.'
Heathrow Airport has 1,231 flights carrying 180,100 passengers a day - with half of those being inbound flights. Last year the airport saw 65.7million passengers with 23.4 millions of those going through terminal five.
But the UK Border Agency has dismissed the concerns - saying they are prepared for the busy weekend. The UK Border Agency released a statement saying: 'There will be a significant number of passengers coming through UK border controls and we have organised extra resources to ensure that we have sufficient staff to process passengers as quickly as possible, while maintaining border security.'
But other immigration checks - such as the multi-million pound Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS) introduced to speed up passport control - have proven to take far longer than physical checks. The £9million system have already been ditched at Birmingham and Manchester airports and are expected to disappear from Heathrow and Gatwick after the Olympics
It added that it was expecting 'an exceptionally busy weekend as usual for the end of February half-term'.
But Mr White said queuing passengers at immigration would have a knock-on effect on incoming flights. He added: 'Some may have to circle around Heathrow for longer and some may have to be diverted to other airports.'
Mom Who Made Son Walk to School Is Child Abuser -- Seriously?
Valerie Borders, an Arkansas mom, made her 10-year-old son Nequavion walk to school after being suspended (for the fifth time) from riding the school bus. Was she congratulated? Nope. As per ABC News, Mom was charged with child endangerment and faces one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Let's unwrap the child abuse charges. KAIT says walk to school was longish (4.5 miles). A compassionate, public-spirited (or nosy, bored) bank security guard spotted the lad trudging to school and called the police. The tween boy implored the officer, "Please sir, don't take me home or my mother will beat me." So very Dickensian.
It was also coldish, 30 degrees, though in my home state of Michigan, that's a balmy spring breeze. Kids walk daily through cold and snow in our area. Stores also sell inclement weather apparel in kids' sizes, (Nequavion was wearing such a garment). Anyway, the concern wasn't weather as much as stranger danger or injury, said officer Lyle Waterworth. He encourages other helpful citizens to call the police when they see kids walking alone.
Segue. I find no fault with the police officer for checking this out. As a mandatory reporter, he has to; it's the law. He may have suspected that Nequavion's "beating" reference was just a deflector shield to save the boy's naughty hide, (which Nequavion told KAIT it basically was). Police officers can't take that chance, however. I do fault them for filing charges, once mom explained that her son had been kicked off the bus repeatedly and was being punished.
I give Borders props -- I'm not sure, as a mom, I'd have enough moxie to enforce a march to school. As a teacher, I applaud her for following up with consequences. I once disciplined a student for kicking kids (and explained to mom why). Later, I saw that child at the grocery store enjoying an ice cream cone. Mom's explained, "he had such a hard day."
Admittedly, Nequavion's walk was long, but that's what made it consequentially perfect. As he said, it was mom's way of teaching him to appreciate the bus (kudos, Nequavion, for recognizing that). If she had chauffeured him to school, what would that have taught him? I can see the wheels turning. "Get in trouble--ride in comfy car. Be good--ride crowded, uncomfortable school bus."
Mom needs a commendation, not jail.
Federal Judge Orders NYC To Reopen Its Schools for the Churches
The churches are going back to meet in the NYC schools! Thursday, Judge Loretta Preska issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the New York City Department of Education from enforcing its policy banning private worship services in the public schools on weeknights and weekends. Although the order lasts only ten days, we expect Judge Preska to issue a preliminary injunction during those ten days that will extend the time longer. At a hearing last Tuesday, Judge Preska indicated her agreement with ADF attorneys that NYC’s policy violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and also excessively entangled the City in religious affairs in violation of the Establishment Clause.
Many of the 60 or so displaced churches have nowhere to meet, so they welcome this reprieve from the federal court. The NYC Department of Education has filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, asking it to overturn the lower court order and allow NYC to enforce its ban on worship services. ADF attorneys are set to respond to this petition, and we do not expect it to succeed. If necessary, ADF will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although ADF will persevere in court until the end of this lawsuit, ADF urges the New York Legislature to step in and end this whole matter by passing the legislation overturning NYC’s policy. The proposed law has passed the NY Senate, but the Speaker of the Assembly has held up the bill, voicing concerns that ADF has tried to address with new language for the bill. We are encouraging the Legislature to act because it has full authority to repeal NYC’s policy. Nothing in the court case requires the Legislature to wait or to keep NYC’s policy.
This amazing battle for equal access and religious liberty in New York City continues. Stay tuned!
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.