Theresa May's big golden goodbyes bill


2019-08-05 /

LONDON - British taxpayers paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in golden goodbyes during the chaotic Theresa May premiership - including to Boris Johnson and many of his new top team.
Almost £850,000 was paid out to ministers who quit their jobs, were fired or who lost their seats at the 2017 snap general election, along with their numerous advisers.
According to POLITICO analysis of departmental figures, 40 ministers who departed government were paid at least £361,463 during the tumultuous three years May was in power.

That includes eight secretaries of state such as Boris Johnson (now the prime minister), Dominic Raab (now foreign secretary) and Esther McVey (now a minister of state), who all resigned in protest last year over Brexit.
In total, 18 ministers who were eligible for severance pay quit or were sacked over the government's approach to Brexit, leading to payouts totalling £164,300. Meanwhile, four members of the House of Lords who served as ministers resigned, getting more than £71,000 between them.
Johnson and Raab got almost £17,000 each, a quarter of their annual salary, as did Damian Green, May's de facto deputy, who was sacked in December 2017 over "inaccurate and misleading statements" about porn on his computer, and Amber Rudd, who resigned in April last year over the Windrush scandal.
Priti Patel, who was sacked in November 2017 after holding secret meetings with Israeli officials while on holiday, also took home the payout (Patel was made home secretary by Johnson), as did Justine Greening, who refused to be moved from the education brief in a Cabinet reshuffle in January 2018.
The overall number is likely to be higher, as Gavin Williamson, who was sacked as defense secretary over a security breach row in May, and Andrea Leadsom, who quit as Commons leader over Brexit the same month, are also entitled to the cash, but reports confirming whether or not they took it are yet to be published.
Many of those who departed during the past three years have now returned to government after Johnson became prime minister - and Labour's Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jo Platt urged them to pay the cash back.
"Rarely has failure been so richly rewarded as it was in Theresa May's government," she told POLITICO. "In no other walk of life would people be rewarded for breaking the rules, resigning for personal ambition or getting sacked for incompetence and repeated failure.
"The fact that so many of these people are back in the Cabinet less than a year after receiving handsome payouts stinks. It's one rule for the Tories and another for everyone else. Every one of these ministers should pay back every penny they took from the public purse."
Other notable payouts include almost £5,500 for Andrew Griffiths, after he quit as a business minister in July last year over a sexting storm, as well as the same amount for Kris Hopkins and Rob Wilson, and almost £8,000 for Ben Gummer, after they lost their seats at the 2017 election.
May oversaw the highest number of ministerial resignations outside of a reshuffle since at least 1979, according to the Institute for Government.
She will have added to the bill with the first reshuffle after she took office in 2016, while many of her last appointments were eligible for payouts when they were sacked by Johnson when he took office last week. The Mirror estimates the severance bill for his reshuffle could be about £260,000.
Elsewhere, almost £500,000 was paid out to ministerial advisers who lost their jobs at the same time as their bosses during the May era.
That includes a £30,000 payout to David Frost, who served as an aide to Johnson while he was foreign secretary and got a new job as chief EU negotiator after Johnson won the keys to No. 10.
The Cabinet Office paid out almost £310,000 to 14 special advisers in the 2017-2018 financial year alone.
Ministers over the age of 65 are entitled to a quarter of their annual salary tax free when they depart government, as long as they do not get another ministerial post within three weeks.
Advisers in their first year of service usually get three months of their pay, then another month for each year of service up to a maximum of six months - but they can be forced to pay some back if they are reappointed.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Severance payments for ministers are set out in law and for special advisers are a contractual entitlement.
"The special adviser contract sets out when they are payable, including when their minister leaves office and when there is a general election. If a special adviser is re-employed following either event their severance payment must be repaid."