RWE under fire over board pay

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Thames Water's German parent company, RWE, has admitted its executives are among the best paid in Europe, with total incomes for its five-man board of €28m (£19.5m) last year.

"These amounts are quite normal. We are not in America - such payments are subject to all the normal financial controls that operate in Germany and they can be capped," Bill McAndrews, RWE's spokesman, said yesterday. The company said Harry Roels, its Netherlands-born chief executive, took home €8m last year.

In Britain, consumer groups criticised the company for awarding its board members generous remuneration packages while its UK subsidiary, Thames Water, was demanding that the public refrain from using hosepipes.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said it was "just short of obscene" for RWE to be paying its directors huge sums while Londoners were being threatened with drought orders because of its UK subsidiary's failure to meet targets for reducing water leaks.

"The whole dispute about board members' pay appears to be an emotional reaction to the problems Thames Water are having," Mr McAndrews said, and added that Thames "accounts for only 10 per cent of RWE's total revenues".

RWE's turnover last year was €42bn. It bought the water company for £4.8bn in 2000, and has taken more than £800m from it in dividends.