Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Charity and Generosity that begins and ends in the boardroom

The Tory Daily Mail is not my normal preferred reading but a friend, an old age pensioner who keeps asking me to join him down the British Legion, has drawn my attention to this item. It's a change from the Mail's usual targeting of immigrants, welfare claimants, and trade unionists.

The housing chief who earns

£1,000a day from the taxpayer

By Steve Doughty and Daniel Bates

A public sector housing boss has secured an earnings package worth almost £1,000 a day.

John Belcher, whose organisation runs subsidised homes for the elderly, received taxpayer-funded salary and perks worth more than £360,000 last year.

This is nearly twice the £189,994 earned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and dwarfs the earnings of the public servants who are traditionally the best paid.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who as Lord Chief Justice is head of the judiciary in England and Wales, earns £236,300, while Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, is paid £290,000.

Dr Belcher, 61, chief executive of the Anchor Trust, has more than doubled the value of his pay package over seven years. He is thought to be the first public servant outside industries such as the Royal Mail, the railways and the BBC to earn more than £300,000.

Canadian-born Dr Belcher also serves on the Audit Commission, the public spending watchdog.

Last year he earned £327,000, including a £72,000 bonus and a car allowance of £15,000. He also received £1,000 in medical insurance and £32,880 in pension contributions, bringing the total to £360,880.

The package was condemned by critics of public spending waste.

The TaxPayers' Alliance said it was 'outrageous', while the Housing Corporation, which regulates housing associations, warned that 'salary increases should be proportionate'.

The pay of housing association chiefs shot up after the organisations expanded when councils hived off their housing estates to independent associations, which are often run by former town hall officials.

Many associations like to style themselves as businesses but a High Court judgment this summer ruled they were public bodies.

They are due for a further boost of £400million over the next few months under Gordon Brown's plans to build more social housing to ease the impact of the credit crunch.

Anchor Trust, once a small Oxford association, provides housing for 50,000 elderly people. It runs care homes and sells sheltered housing but its biggest operation is as a landlord of subsidised housing. It receives £600 million in housing grants from the Treasury.


What is not unusual about this story is the headline, focusing exclusively on how money is coming from the taxpayer. Papers like the Mail assume all their readers are middle-class home owners whose only concern is with the value of their homes and how much tax they are paying. Judging from such comments as the Mail has published their conditioned regulars can't tell the difference between a charity boss and a public servant anyway, and are most excised that a "foreigner" has got the job.

The reason this item interested my friend is that he is an Anchor Housing tenant, living in "sheltered accommodation" for the elderly, and has seen his rent go up each year. Many of his neighbours could not afford these rents without council housing benefit, which is of course means tested.
Each year Anchor provides information about its costs and the budget for his scheme, but he cannot remember it mentioning the chief executive's salary.

Lower down the scale, Anchor staff who look after the schemes, seeing to anything from dealing with contractors, repairs and security, to calling doctors and ambulances for tenants who take ill, are not so well-paid. Not all have accommodation provided, and we hear of a woman asked to travel some distance attending more than one site but not allowed to claim for petrol or fares.

The reason I'm citing the case of Dr.Belcher and his dosh is that for many years now, housing associations and trusts have been extolled as the happy answer to housing problems, and as the Mail story says, local authorities, prevented from building new council houses, have been encouraged to pass on responsibility for existing housing to them. But it is also part of the bigger picture of public service provision being either privatised or passed on to the so-called voluntary sector, sections of which have increasingly become like
competing businesses, with overpaid bosses and lower paid staff. This kind of charity is a byword for generosity - to some.



At 10:58 PM, Blogger white rabbit said...

Boy am I in the wrong job...

The isue with social housing has always seemed to me to be control/self mamagement. Local authority management was bureaucratic, remote and unresponsive - notwithstanding the odd outbreakk of pseudo-consultation. Housing Associations seem no better with added fat cattery. Maybe the idea of the self-managing housing co-operative needs revisiting. I know one that has worked very well - basically the members of the co-operatibve make the decisions - and make them very well with a minimum of bickering. And even when they do bicker - that's because they are making actual decisions as opposed to being 'consulted' by a body that has already made its mind up and is going through the motions.


Post a Comment

<< Home