Royal Mail chief Moya Greene was given £250,000 of public money to buy UK home

She has now returned £120,000, the amount she received after tax

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The chief executive of  the state-owned Royal Mail was given £250,000 of public money to help her buy a new house without the Government being told, it has emerged.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, was not told until  last month  about the payment to Moya Greene after she moved from Canada to take up her post in 2010.  His department discovered it when it was sent the draft remuneration report for Royal Mail’s directors for 2012-13.

Mr Cable intervened, saying his permission should have been sought and that he would have blocked such a payment. Ms Greene has now returned £120,000, the amount she received after tax, a transaction has disclosed in the Royal Mail report.

Mr Cable said: “I am pleased that this unapproved payment is being returned. The company acted quickly to rectify the situation. A mistake was made in not seeking my approval: I would not have approved it. The chairman [Donald Brydon]  is sorry ; the payment is being returned. I now regard the matter closed.  Moya Greene is an exceptionally good CEO and she and the board have my full support to take the company forward.”

Ms Greene still received almost £1.5m in pay and benefits in the 2012-13 financial year.  Her salary remained at £498,000, but extras included £399,000 under a short-term incentive plan, £200,000 in lieu of a pension and £127,000 in benefits such as medical insurance and return flights to her native Canada.

Royal Mail said in a statement: "The remuneration committee appreciates that executive remuneration is a sensitive subject in the current economic environment. Under Moya Greene's leadership, Royal Mail has been transformed. In 2010-11, Royal Mail was balance sheet insolvent with negative cash flows. The company also had going concern issues.  For 2012-13, the group reported positive free cash flow of £334m. There were no going concern issues. All its businesses are profitable.” It said its  core UK business moved from a £120m loss in 2010-11 to a £331m profit  in 2012-13,  the single biggest profit contributor to the group.

Leaders of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) decided to press ahead this week with a strike ballot of 115,000 Royal Mail workers over pay, jobs, pensions and other issues linked to the proposed privatisation of the company. Ballot papers will be sent out before the end of next month if no agreement is reached.