The union representing senior civil servants has accused Labour MPs of a “blatant disregard for the facts” after an attack on bonuses awarded to officials working on the Department for Work and Pension's controversial universal credit scheme.
Responding to a report in the Mirror that details the amounts received by some DWP, alongside their names and photographs, Jawad Raza, FDA national officer for DWP, said officials should not be used as targets by political opponents of the system simply for doing their jobs.
He said MPs joining the chorus of criticism are “yet another example of elected officials taking aim at civil servants for their own political gain, knowing full well those they attack cannot answer back”.
“The universal credit system was created by a former secretary of state and civil servants are tasked with delivering it,” he added.
The Mirror story names five top DWP officials who have received bonuses of up to £20,000 in the past two years. DWP is tasked with the delivery of universal credit, the benefit system that combines several unemployment and low-income benefits into a single payment.
Implementation of the scheme has been delayed and it is under fire for administrative problems, with 31 MPs this month urged work and pensions secretary David Gauke to delay the latest rollout until the new year.
Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, told the Mirror that these bonuses were "a reward for failure and an insult to many of my constituents who are on the breadline", while Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, said she had been “deluged with complaints about a system struggling to cope”.
But Raza stressed that these accusations do not tell the full story, and that Whitehall bonuses are subject to stringent criteria and only awarded to a select few senior civil servants. They are often handed out in lieu of pay increases, which have been limited to 1% since 2010.
“The suggestion that these civil servants have been ‘rewarded for failure’ shows a blatant disregard for the facts regarding their pay and wilfully misrepresents the true complexity of their roles,” he said.
“Senior civil servants have delivered billions of pounds worth of savings since 2010 with an ever reducing workforce. These are highly skilled professionals working in challenging circumstances and they deserve to be adequately remunerated without having their names and faces spread across news pages.”
Civil service directors now earn 51% less than their private sector counterparts, and directors general earn 61% less, he added.
This attack on civil service remuneration follows claims made earlier this month by sources close to Priti Patel, the international development secretary, who claimed she believes senior civil service salaries are “way out of line with public opinion” and should be restrained.