Friday, 27 July 2012

Executive salaries at the Canal and River Trust

An interesting week of news around the CRT but the headline must be the announcement about executive pay. It is a huge relief that the Trustees have grasped the nettle and even the most hardened critics of BW/CRT like me are mostly pleased with the news.

One might be tempted to say 'cut down to size' but I think a better description is 'some sensible pruning'. As all gardeners know, in most cases pruning is something you have to keep an eye on and come back to periodically. It's a good start but lets not get complacent, because there are still things to watch on this front.

The comment about retaining "a high calibre top team" is laughable in my corner because as a customer this this not a description I recognise from my interactions with most of the current  incumbents. The fact that those who were in the past grossly overpaid for failing have had their salaries brought back in line is a Pyrrhic victory.

Ironically the one former BW Director I still have any genuine respect for is Jim Sterling and he is to leave. I for one wish Jim well for the future.

Although the release points to a hardening approach to bonuses and sets lower limits overall on the potential bonus payouts, again the announcement is only that - a statement of intent. Huge rewards during periods of abject failure were not unique to BW executives but in a similar vein many of us will not be fully convinced that there is real change afoot until we see more details and some real outcomes. The big question is what is going to count now as "exceptional performance" and I hope the Trustees will publish the detail of that very soon.

The release is also most noticeably silent about pension contributions which are to many of us at least as significant in their impact as the main salary figures. Until this is clarified one must reserve judgement as to whether the new salary bands are reasonable. We only have half the story.

The suggestion that what BW's senior management team has exceptional responsibilities is poppycock when compared to many other third sector organisations; I think of my trade: large Housing Associations have comparable property and commercial portfolios portfolios, geographically diverse staff and many comparable legal duties. The new salary bands announced for the BW senior management seem to me to be at the top end of comparables in my sector. But I have to be pleased to at last see that things I have been suggesting for many years on comparable salaries have been largely confirmed and now implemented. The Odgers Berndtson report is in my view most worth reading.

It is amusing that when a dreadlocked boater like me points these things out, it is ignored - when a doubtless well paid consultancy says the same thing, it is acted on. That's something I shall maybe come back to another time!


  1. Surely not a plan to lose the dreads!!! Shock Horror! I worry that you are mellowing a little with age!

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