Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, was given at least a 40 per cent pay rise last year despite a public sector pay freeze and minimal increases for other government aides.
The senior Number 10 official, who is set to leave government this month, saw his salary rise from the £95,000-£100,000 pay bracket to £140,000-£145,000 last year, according to the Cabinet Office’s annual report on pay transparency.
Lee Cain, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, also received a salary in the top £140,000-145,000 pay bracket, along with Eddie Lister, Mr Johnson’s fixer, and Munira Mirza, head of the Number 10 policy unit.
Mr Cummings was the prime minister’s most influential adviser from July 2019 until he fell out with Mr Johnson in November over who should oversee his Downing Street operation. He was replaced by Dan Rosenfield, who serves as chief of staff.
The wage increase prompted fury across Whitehall, given the constraints on public finances and the lack of rises for other special advisers, whose pay last year increased by an average of 1 per cent, according to the report.
The Johnson government froze the pay for more than 1m public sector workers, including police and firefighters, in last month’s spending review.
Mr Cummings also made his position on pay clear during his time as strategy director of the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum, stating on the organisation’s website when it was launched that “no one will be paid over £100k”. One individual involved said it was to “make us look in touch with the common man”.
Several government aides said they were told that pay had been all but frozen because of Covid-19. “Dom lectured us pretty much weekly that in ‘the people’s government’ pay was not the object,” said one adviser. “Under Dom and Lee’s dynasty you wouldn’t have dared ask for a pay rise — it would have been basically asking to be sacked.”
Another government aide described it as “classic Dom”, adding he “talks a good game, but is actually a massive disappointment”.
Ministers said Mr Cummings’ pay rise “looked very bad” for the government. “Dom has done more than anyone else to retoxify the [Conservative] party’s image. First Barnard Castle, now this. Voters will look at this and say it’s one rule for us and another for them — and they would be right,” a member of the government said.
Dave Penman, head of the FDA union that represents senior civil servants, said the pay rise “displayed breathtaking hypocrisy” from the Johnson government.
“Only a few months ago, ministers were on their doorsteps applauding key workers, now they’re lecturing them about targeting resources at those who need it most whilst hiking the pay of their own advisers,” he said.
Mr Cummings could not be contacted for comment.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Mr Cummings salary was revised to reflect the fact he was one of the prime minister’s most senior advisers. His salary was in line with previous chief of staff roles.”
“The uprating in salary was approved by the Cabinet Office’s special adviser pay committee, with due process, in the usual way,” they added.
Meanwhile it was revealed that Mr Johnson overruled civil service advice to end legal action over the departure of Sonia Khan, a former adviser to then-chancellor Sajid Javid.
Ms Khan was fired by Mr Cummings and escorted by police from Downing Street. She subsequently sued the government for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination. According to Huffington Post, the prime minister was advised in March by John Manzoni, chief executive of the civil service, to settle the case.
Ms Khan recently settled her claim with the government, receiving a significant five-figure payout.
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