Property chief earns triple Blair's salary

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The Independent Online

The man in charge of administering the Queen's property on behalf of Parliament was last night attacked as a "fat cat" for receiving pay and benefits worth nearly £300,000 a year.

The man in charge of administering the Queen's property on behalf of Parliament was last night attacked as a "fat cat" for receiving pay and benefits worth nearly £300,000 a year.

Sir Christopher Howes, chief executive of the Crown Estate, has become Britain's highest-paid public servant, according to figures obtained by The Independent.

The Crown Estate is the country's biggest landowner, with property in Regent's Park, Regent Street and other historic parts of London, and 300,000 acres of land. All profits, which last year topped £132.9m, go to the Treasury in return for the Civil List, which is paid to the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family.

The Crown Estate's accounts for 1999-2000 show Sir Christopher was paid a basic salary of £181,017, including a performance bonus of £42,699. As second commissioner and chief executive he also received a rent-free Crown Estate flat in London and company car worth £59,899, as well as a pension contribution of £59,011.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said it was "shocking" that Sir Christopher received so much of taxpayers' money. "How can it be that someone in such a position can earn three times the salary of the Prime Minister? This is money which should be going to the Treasury and the public purse instead of going into one individual's pocket. It is difficult to see how this package could possibly be justified," he said.

A Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said Labour had made great play in opposition of attacking "fat cats" in private utilities and the Tory party. "This shows that, yet again, high expectation turns into low disappointment," she said.

A Treasury spokesman said Sir Christopher's package was justified by the 5.6 per cent increase in the Crown Estate surplus he oversaw in 1999-2000. "The chief executive will return both house and car when he leaves his job. He's not a civil servant, so his salary ought not to be compared with a civil servant salary. If you want to compare it, you would need to compare it with salaries in the private sector such as Land Securities or British Land, where salaries begin at £250,000 and are considerably boosted by share options not available to Sir Christopher."

A Crown Estate spokeswoman said Sir Christopher was "well worth his money", adding: "When he joined us in 1989, the Crown Estate's revenue was £40m. It is now £132m. That's some increase."

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