Top brass under fire over pay rises and perks worth millions

Senior officers accused of being 'feather-bedded' as troops wait for vital gear
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Britain's senior defence bosses are enjoying the benefits of a hefty £21m combined salary and benefits pot that has increased by millions in only 12 months.

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Defence reveal that the total salaries of the 10 most senior military officers rose from £1.6m in 2007-2008 to £1.74m in the past financial year. The Defence Board members will also share a pension pot of £17m – up from £14m only a year ago – and lump-sum payments totalling over £2.4m.

Details of the generous package offered to Britain's top brass even as the military is preparing for funding cuts emerged as the MoD revealed that the former head of the British Army picked up £160,000 in "perks" during his final year in the job.

The Government was accused of attempting to "smear" General Sir Richard Dannatt earlier this year, when it emerged that the MoD had received a series of freedom of information requests seeking details of the bill for his accommodation and other costs.

It was subsequently claimed that General Dannatt, who retired last month, was a "budget general" whose most "extravagant" spending covered official entertaining carried out on behalf of the military. He also took a pay cut last year, bringing his salary down from £175,000 to £165,000.

The MoD has revealed that the general lived in official accommodation leased at £108,408 a year, with a £10,000 cleaning bill. The annual leasing cost of his official limousine came to almost £5,000 a year – plus £34,662 for a chauffeur. Parliamentary answers published in the House of Lords also revealed that General Dannatt took 40 trips within the UK on military helicopters when it was claimed there was a shortage of aircraft for front-line troops in Afghanistan.

Lord Foulkes, who sparked a storm of protest when it emerged that he had requested details of the "perks", said the answers suggested the most senior military officers were being "feather-bedded". He said: "Someone did a good PR job for the general, but these details show many of the military are benefiting from extravagant perks at a time when MPs are being criticised for their expenses."

Nine executive directors of the 10-strong Defence Board accrued £210,800 in benefits-in-kind, such as chauffeur-driven cars and "official service residences". The latest figure is sharply up on the £194,400 of 2007-2008. Pay also rose across the board – with the notable exception of General Dannatt.

The financial details, revealed in the MoD's annual report for 2008-09, show that the bill for salaries paid to Defence Board directors is up from £1,685,000 in 2007-08 to £1,740,000. Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, received a pay rise of up to £10,000, taking his salary to £235,000. He received a £15,000 pay rise in 2007-08. As well as the use of an official service residence at a cost to the taxpayer of £38,600, he has a pension fund worth more than £2.5m, which will pay him £130,000 a year.

And it is not just the Defence Board that is enjoying increased rewards. MoD senior civil servants raked in more than £1.5m in bonus payments in each of the past two years – at an average of around £8,000 each.

The performance-related payments come in stark contrast to the MoD's difficulties over its finances: it has had its accounts qualified by the National Audit Office, with more than £6bn worth of assets unaccounted for, and some £268m wrongly paid out in specialist pay and expenses.

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