Tes is reporting that the boss of a secretive property company set up by the Department for Education to secure free-school sites received a five-figure bonus last year, even though the organisation missed one of its key targets.
The Department for Education declined to tell Tes why Lara Newman, the chief executive of LocatED, received the bonus – a decision which the chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has branded “unacceptable”.
LocatED calls itself “Britain’s biggest property start-up”, and was set up to operate at arm’s length from the DfE with a remit to find and buy hundreds of free-school sites.
Its accounts up to 31 March 2018 – published last month – reveal that Ms Newman received a salary of £185-190,000 in 2017-18, plus bonus payments of £20-35,000 and £11,000 in pension benefits, giving her a total remuneration of £225-230,000.
As Tes revealed in an investigation back in September 2017, “pay flexibility” – which allows an external body to pay staff more than standard civil service pay – was a key reason why LocatED was set up outside Whitehall.
However, the accounts admit that LocatED “did not achieve the extremely ambitious historic cost-per-pupil target” – a measure which also includes construction costs.
Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, criticised the lack of transparency. “The bit that does worry me is the bonus, not telling you why that bonus was paid,” she told Tes.
Her words were echoed by Emma Hardy, a Labour MP who sits on the Commons Education Committee. “If anyone’s receiving public money, then there should be transparency about who’s receiving it and how much and why,” she said.
While the DfE initially declined to say how much LocatED had saved – saying the information was “commercially sensitive” – it later told Tes that in 2017-18 the body had spent an estimated £23.7 million less, across all site purchases, when compared with historic average site acquisition costs.
Read the full article DfE won’t say why property boss missed target and got £20-35k bonus
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