Coming after disclosures of large rises in the privatised water and electricity companies, and substantial expenses payments to members of the Railtrack board, the revelation is a further embarrassment for the Government as it struggles to keep public-sector pay demands in check.
Last March, Steven Norris, Minister for Transport in London, declared in a written Parliamentary answer that Stephen Curtis, chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency based in Swansea, earned pounds 51,360 a year. But in a newspaper advertisement for Mr Curtis's successor last week, the salary quoted was up to pounds 70,000, and 'more may be available for an exceptional candidate'.
Mr Curtis will be leaving the DVLA when his five-year contract expires next April. He oversaw the licensing centre's establishment as an executive agency for the Department of Transport in 1990. He has always been paid the same as a grade 3 civil servant.
Michael Meacher, Labour spokesman on the Citizen's Charter, has written to William Waldegrave, his opposite number, asking how the rise 'can be justified when public servants are pegged to a 1.5 per cent pay increase and over 4,000 jobs are to go as a result of 20 per cent cuts at the Department of Transport?'
Mr Meacher claimed the 37 per cent increase 'exposes the double standards of the Government imposing its guidelines on British Rail to prevent the settlement of the dispute with signalling staff'.
A DoT spokesman claimed that the pay 'has not gone up'. The advert said 'up to' pounds 70,000 and more 'may' be available for the right person. He added that it was 'not unusual for the chief executive of an agency to be employed at a higher pay level than in the Civil Service'.