Charities defend pay rises for bosses

Updated: 
charity collection boxThirty executives working in a group of leading charities are now paid more than £100,000, while three years ago the figure stood at 19, according to research published in the Daily Telegraph.

The number of charity executives on six-figure salaries has increased by 60% over the past three years, the paper said.

The charities form the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a group which works in collaboration to coordinate work across the world when tragedy strikes. According to the Daily Telegraph, research showed that the number of charity staff earning more than £60,000 had risen to 193 between 2010 and 2012 – an increase of 16%.

Eleven charity executives receive more than the prime minister's 2013 salary of £142,500, the paper said.

Priti Patel, a Conservative MP involved in the research, told the Daily Telegraph: "Hard-pressed taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent and will be shocked to see so many highly paid executives in charities that are dependent on public funds. This money should be focused on delivering frontline services rather than lining the pockets of unaccountable charity executives."

A spokesman for the DEC said it did not play any part in setting executive pay within its member charities, but said that the proportion of DEC appeal funds to be spent by charities on UK management of disaster responses was limited to 7%.

"Over the past five years the DEC has raised over £193m for its appeals and the cost of raising those funds was less than 4% of that total," the spokesman said.

"A balance must be struck between minimising overheads and ensuring a robust management system is in place. Good management of emergency responses in the UK allows our member agencies to deliver the planning, monitoring, accountability and transparency that this work requires and that the public rightly demands."

He added: "The Disasters Emergency Committee plays no part in setting executive salaries at our member agencies but we believe these salaries are broadly in line with pay at other charities of comparable size."

According to the Daily Telegraph, top earners include Sir Nick Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, whose pay has risen by 12% to £184,000 since 2010, although donations have fallen by one per cent and revenues by 3%. Loretta Minghella, executive at Christian Aid and a former chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, was paid £126,072 this year, up from £119,123 in 2011.

And Justin Forsyth was paid £163,000 last year in his role as chief executive of Save the Children, while chief operating officer Anabel Hoult was paid £168,653. Although donations have increased at the charity, revenue has fallen by 3% since 2010.

A Save the Children spokesman told the Guardian that the charity paid competitive wages benchmarked against two external salary surveys. "We want to save more children's lives. We can't – and shouldn't – compete with salaries in the private sector, but we need to pay enough to ensure we get the best people to help our work to stop children dying needless deaths."

Bit the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, said it was concerned that high salaries in tough economic times could damage the reputation of charities as a whole. William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, said: "It is not for the Commission to tell charities how much they should pay their executives.

That is a matter for their trustees. However in these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities. Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute."