We name the Fat Pension Sir Humphreys

The Unite Union (and others associated with the growing debate about senior Town Hall and Whitehall pension fraud) are keen to tell us that ‘averages’ are misleading. But this kind of spin cannot hide the fact that 12% of Britain’s outstanding debt liabilities relate to just 600,000 civil service fatties.

There is simply no arguing with the macro data: a Sunday Times Rich List shows the public sector has no fewer than 23,000 pension pots of a £1million or more. The list includes not just 3,680 exceptional Mandarins but also 2,658 teachers, 400 retired staff from Glasgow City Council – and an amazing 223 from Kent County Council alone.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance calculates that the number of million-pound pension pots is set to double in the next five years. This is because there are now 123,000 civil servants above the age of 50 – as opposed to just 88,000 before Labour came to office in 1997.

In November 2007, Sir Richard Mottram became the country’s wealthiest state pensioner when he retired from the Cabinet Office on a package worth almost £2.7million. This allowed him to take a tax-free lump sum of £335,000 and an annual pension of £110,000.

But Sir Richard has been outstripped since then. Top of the public sector pension league is Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, who by June 2009 had £5.4million in his retirement fund. Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup had accumulated £2.4million.

Also in the top ten with £2million was Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, who ironically was a mandarin in the Treasury at the time of Gordon Brown’s disastrous tax raid on private-pension funds in 1997.

Leigh Lewis, whose Department of Work and Pensions presided over Britain’s pension meltdown, has accumulated a pot worth £1,881,000. At the Home Office, Sir David Normington’s fund is close to £2 million.

Sir Ian Blair, who resigned as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner late in 2008, could look forward to a reported £5million pension pot.

In the shires, Peter Gould quit as chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council with a guaranteed annual pension of £97,000 after just seven years of service at the age of 54.

Meanwhile, over at the licence fee-funded BBC, Jenny Abramsky, its veteran director of audio, has retired on £190,000 a year – a near-obscene amount of money for anyone on the public payroll. Beneath her elevated throne, Zarin Patel, the BBC’s finance director, is trying to find a way to bridge a predicted £2billion deficit in the BBC’s pension scheme. Her principal proposal – the one which has taken the BBC to the brink of a strike – is to break the link between actual pay and pensionable pay.

I could carry on giving examples of this kind of self-donated largesse forever and a day. This is not a political issue any more: it is one of apolitical justice. There are two things that make this scandal infinitely worse than banker bonuses and MPs’ expenses:

1. Some bankers are actually incredibly good at what they do – and, on pre-agreed criteria – more than achieved their profit targets. Most of the Whitehall troughers have presided over abject failure.
2. While MPs working an expenses system is infuriating, it is a minute cost to Britain compared to the extra trillion Pounds these civil service peacocks have awarded themselves since 2006.

The initial objective of this campaign remains the same: to establish a simple principle – regardless of past agreements on pension accumulation in the civil service – which dictates NO FUNDING, NO BENEFITS. It is outrageous that these leeches should expect us to pay for their retirement when they quite knowingly gifted huge sums to themselves knowing there were no budgets to pay for them.

But after this, our central question is still, “Who authorised these unfunded awards, and when will the Serious Fraud Office be called in to investigate?”

Our contemporary world is full of appeals for this, and rallying calls about that. But there is nothing – not in any developed country anywhere – on the same scale of crime as this. Here we have public servants, paid to protect the UK’s citizens, conspiring to steal from their pockets, and contributing to national bankruptcy without losing a second’s sleep about it.


Email and comment thread wherever you can to ensure that this greed does not go unpunished.
This is what the internet is for: use it,or lose it.

8 thoughts on “We name the Fat Pension Sir Humphreys

  1. I don't think it's fair to say that the civil servants gave themselves huge pensions knowing that there would be no funding for them. They may not have enquired too closely, but (a) the PM/Chancellor of the day was spending as if there was no tomorrow, with not a hint of interest in the funding of anything, and (b) it's not their job to evaluate funding options, the Treasury is supposed to do that. Put at its simplest, the previous government believed in endless growth and its self-proclaimed ending of boom and bust. Both were completely wrong and we know what happened next. What I would agree with is a complete overhaul of 'top peoples' pensions, with (to keep things clear and simple) a maximum state pension for anyone at all of £75k per year, indexed to the CPI, with an average expectation of £50k, for the top echelon.


  2. A BBC employee retiring on £ 190,000 a year? What was her final salary? Why the fuck couldn't she fund the entire pension herself?The taxpayer has paid her salary and the contributions to her pension and will continue to keep her and many others in clover for years to come. I don't blame these people personally, if an organisation is daft enough to offer these terms then you'd be a fool not to take it. I do believe there is something morally wrong here. How many people on the public teat earn over £ 75000.00 a year? Why can they not provide for their own retirement?The next time Ed Balls gets on his hind legs to pontificate about coalition cuts I hope someone is there to ram this lot back down his throat.


  3. You are very right. Whilst many public sector employees now and in the past have retired on modest pensions more or less comparable with the then private sector in the last decade there has been gross abuse of these schemes by those at the top. Added to that is that Labour consistently allowed wider allowances that have added to the general problem.


  4. I've copied your previous post, (yesterday), on this to Anne Begg MP for Aberdeen South. I got a reply advising I am unlikely to get a response due to the summer break. Clearly there is nothing too pressing going on in the world then! We need a revolution.


  5. BarncactusI think you have to set this view in the context of two things I've so far established to my own satisfaction:1. That Treasury officials opened a new accounts column called 'unfunded'. Why do that if you didn't know, as it were, that the money wasn't there to fund these increasingly generous packages?2. That three times – 2006, 2008 and 2009 – the benefit packages were bumped up. How can you work in the Treasury – or in any senior Mandarin job – and not know the pensions still exposed to the markets were taking a hammering?


  6. Scary stats!! As I said on the Telegraph..Pensions are Ponzi schemes. I left my final salary pension scheme as a result of redundancy…I am convinced that, that is also a Ponzi scheme…I am not convinced that the money will be there for me in the future..bad times, worse to come!


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