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Charities defend big money paid to top executives

09 August 2013


CHRISTIAN aid agencies have defended the salaries paid to senior executives after the chairman of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, said that they risked bringing the charitable sector into "disrepute".

On Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph published research suggesting that the number of executives at 14 of the UK's aid charities who receive six-figure salaries had risen over the past three years from 19 to 30. This represented a rise of nearly 60 per cent. Christian Aid was among the charities listed: its chief executive, Loretta Minghella (above), is paid more than £120,000 a year.

The Telegraph also listed several Christian aid agencies whose chief executives' salaries approach six figures, including: World Vision, whose chief executive, Justin Byworth, is paid just over £95,000 a year; Tearfund, whose chief executive, Matthew Frost, receives £92,000 a year (taking into account pension); and CAFOD, whose chief executive, Chris Bain, is paid £87,567 a year.

Mr Shawcross told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that, in these difficult economic times, trustees "should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities. Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute."

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Christian Aid said that Ms Minghella received £126,206 p.a., and would be paid the same in 2013-14. Seeking to reassure those concerned that it was "too much to pay someone working in the charity sector", the statement said Christian Aid needed "the best people possible to lead what is a large and complex organisation", and that Ms Minghella, previously chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, "brings with her a huge amount of expertise, experience, and passion for the cause".

The statement cited a survey of UK charities, published in March by Third Sector magazine, which suggested that Christian Aid was "significantly under the sector average for top executive pay". The survey suggested that, among religious charities, the median pay of the top earners was £186,000-£193,000.

A spokesman for World Vision UK said on Tuesday: "Our charity has a budget of nearly £70 million a year, managing hundreds of development projects in dozens of countries, with nearly 200,000 supporters. Like any large charitable organisation, we need to attract the right person with the right skills and experience."

The chief executive of Tearfund, Matthew Frost, said on Tuesday that his salary was equivalent to that of senior staff in other organisations in that sector. "We will continue to pay market salary rates for these posts, so that we're able to recruit the skills we need." CAFOD said in a statement on Tuesday that none of its staff earned more than £100,000 a year, and that only six people earned more than £60,000 a year.

Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that executive pay "simply isn't an issue for donors".

They were "more concerned about the outcomes, the performance, and the efficiency of these organisations. To keep talent, really strong people, at the top of these organisations, they need to be paid properly."

These were still not excessive salaries when compared with the public and private sectors.

Question of the Week: Are aid agencies' top salaries too high?

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