Criminal defence practitioners facing a second 8.75% fee cut next month have voiced their anger over the Legal Aid Agency’s annual report, which shows that the chief executive's employment package rose by 12.5% in the last financial year.
The agency's Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15, which includes the salaries of LAA executive board members, shows that employment costs for chief executive Matthew Coats (pictured) amounted to £225,000, including bonus payments of between £10,000-£15,000.
Coats, who is also director general of Ministry of Justice Corporate Services, received £140,000-£145,000 in salary and fees, and £65,000 in pension-related benefits.
Total employment costs for Coats in the 2013-14 financial year added up to £195,000-£200,000, which included £140,000-£145,000 in salary and fees, £10,000-£15,000 in bonus payments and £41,000 in pension-related benefits.
The report states that Coats’ remuneration covers both roles and is reported in the MoJ accounts to denote his dual responsibilities.
The report was published on the day criminal defence solicitors learned they would face a second fee cut of 8.75% from 1 July.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association are balloting members on action by refusing to work at ‘derisory’ rates.
Jonathan Black, president of the LCCSA said: ‘No legal aid lawyer should earn more than the prime minister, we are told. Mr Coats’ salary equates to the salary of 10 solicitors made redundant as a result of the recent cuts.’
The Legal Aid Agency told the Gazette the chief executive's take-home pay 'increased by a third of 1% last year' and that his terms of employment 'have not become more generous'.
A spokesperson said: 'The apparent change in overall remuneration is due entirely to a new estimate of pension benefit value. Each year, the consumer price index and other information is used to calculate a best estimate. However these fluctuate from year to year - indeed, the estimate for 2014/15 is only marginally higher than the estimate for 2012/13.'
The report states that Hugh Barrett, director of commissioning and strategy, received £140,000-£145,000 in salary and fees, bonus payments of £10,000-£15,000 and £32,000 in pension-related benefits.
Catherine Little, director of finance and performance (from 1 April 2014), received £90,000-£95,000 in salary and fees, and £34,000 in pension-related benefits.
Ruth Wayte, principal legal adviser to the LAA, received between £95,000-£100,000 in salary and fees, and £24,000 in pension-related benefits.
Shaun McNally, director of case management, received £90,000-£95,000 in salary and fees, £10,000-£15,000 in bonus payments and £11,000 in pension-related benefits.