The great jobs divide that splits Britain...... while salaries in privatised utilities rise by 74%

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The Independent Online
A "GOLDEN HELLO" of pounds 250,000 was paid by Stagecoach, the rail and bus operator, to its new chief within only three weeks of moving into his job, flouting the Chancellor's call for pay restraint in the boardroom.

The payment of the bonus to former Southern Water chief executive Mike Kinski came as big business ignored a Treasury outcry over big payouts for fat cats in the privatised utilities.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Byers, accused the utility bosses of being "greedy" but business leaders shrugged off his threat of legislation against big pay rises in the boardrooms. Mr Kinski, 45, will be paid an annual salary of pounds 360,000 by Stagecoach.

Rail users groups were furious over the bonus for joining the company, which runs South West trains, one of the most heavily criticised services in the country. Commuters would see the bonus as a `sick joke', said Jonathan Bray, group director of the campaign group, Save Our Railways.

It came as the Treasury produced a survey showing that the fat cats in gas and water industries are getting fatter, with salaries soaring by up to 74 per cent.

Big business defended the rises as the going rate, and their defiance will be increased by the disclosure that the Government is failing to keep its own house in order by allowing some public sector agencies to pay double-figure increases to their top officials.

Keith Jones, Chief Executive of the Medicines Control Agency, had a 14 per cent rise last year taking his total remuneration including bonuses, but excluding pension contributions, from pounds 91,513 to pounds 104,234. The Treasury insisted that higher pay should be a reward for higher performance, but there was a pounds 3,919 increase - a rise of 4 per cent - in the salary for the new chief executive of the Child Support Agency, to pounds 96,855 - the most heavily criticised government agency.

John Redwood, the Tory trade and industry spokesman, said: "It is a bit rich for the Government to lecture the private sector when it is paying double-figure increases to public sector staff in the upper levels." Tim Melville-Ross, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said the increase of 18 per cent was the same as for the directors of the largest companies generally.

The big rises were: BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield's total package was pounds 1,101,000, an increase of 46 per cent.

Typical boardroom salaries at British Gas and Centrica were in excess of pounds 300,000, up 8 per cent on last year. At Centrica, chief executive Roy Gardner earned a total package of pounds 493,000. At British Gas, his counterpart David Varney got pounds 427,245, a 74 per cent increase.

In the electricity sector the average package was up 9 per cent, to pounds 241,000. At Southern Electric, chief executive Jim Forbes earned pounds 399,000, an increase of 45 per cent. At Seeboard, group managing director John Weight picked up pounds 213,000, a 51 per cent increase. At Scottish Power, chief executive Ian Robinson collected pounds 487,345, a 23 per cent increase.

Severn Trent Water group chief executive Vic Cocker made pounds 293,000, up 22 per cent; at South West, finance director Ken Hill earned pounds 198,000, a 43 per cent increase; at Yorkshire, chief executive Kevin Bond was on pounds 298,000, a 69 per cent increase.