Olympics officials among quango chiefs who earn more than PM

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Indy Politics

More than 140 quango chiefs earn more than the Prime Minister, with large sums going to the key figures behind the preparations for the 2012 London Olympics, the Cabinet Office disclosed last night.

They are each paid more than the £150,000 to which David Cameron was entitled until he took a £7,500 pay cut when he arrived in office in May. The figures were released by the Government as part of its drive to "open up the corridors of power".

Britain's highest-paid quango official is David Higgins, chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), who is paid between £390,000 and £394,999.

Seven other ODA officials draw salaries that dwarf the Prime Minister's income, earning more than £2m between them. Their large remuneration packages reflect the fact that senior figures were recruited from the private sector to oversee the organisation of the Olympics.

The ODA's director of construction, Howard Shiplee, receives £285,000 to £289,999, its finance director, Dennis Hone, is paid between £265,000 and £269,999 and the ODA chairman, John Armitt, takes home £250,000 to £254,999.

Four other ODA directors are on salaries of more than £200,000.

Bosses at the ODA have been accused of being the "bankers of the Olympics" by London politicians for refusing to curb their salaries and bonuses at a time when the public sector faces a pay freeze and job losses.

The ODA has defended the lucrative pay packages, saying they reflected the need to pay the market rate and recruit the best-qualified people, pointing out that some had given up well-paid jobs to work on the Olympics.

Mr Armitt said last year: "We are a market economy and we pay people according to the salaries they can demand, according to the skills they have. I'm not considering reducing my salary and I certainly would not dream of asking to reduce the chief executive's."

The second-highest basic salary is paid to Tony Fountain, the chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which is responsible for dealing with nuclear waste.

In addition to his pay of £365,000 to £369,999, he receives a £70,810 allowance in lieu of a pension and is currently being paid £91,000 relocation costs, bringing his total package from the taxpayer to more than £520,000. Mr Fountain joined the NDA last October from BP, where he was chief operating officer of the oil giant's Fuels Value Chains business.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the chief executive of the Medical Research Council, is paid between £255,000 and £259,999. He was in the spotlight two years ago when, as the most senior Roman Catholic scientist in Britain, he attacked his church's opposition to proposed laws that would allow the creation of human-animal embryos for research.

Andrew Haines, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority, is paid between £250,000 and £254,999.

Last month the Government disclosed that 172 senior civil servants were paid more than £150,000 a year, earning £29.2m between them.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said last night: "Yet again we have shown we are absolutely committed to acting quickly on pledges in our Coalition Agreement to release information that will allow everyone to hold their politicians and public bodies to account.

"This release, along with previous publications listing high earning civil servants and salaries of special advisers, shows that transparency is fast becoming an integral part of everything we do.

"I believe this will not only increase accountability, but will lead to more efficient public service organisations."