Average pay of top earners at general charities has fallen by six per cent since 2013

Research by Third Sector shows that the median for well-known charities such as Save the Children and the Red Cross fell from £155,000 to £145,000; three medical charities remain the highest payers for all charities

The average salary of the top earners in some of the biggest and best-known charities in the UK has fallen by 6 per cent over the past two years, according to research by Third Sector.  

The research shows that the median salary for each top earner among general charities such as Save the Children, Cancer Research UK and the British Red Cross was £145,000, compared with £155,000 in 2013, the last time Third Sector did the study.

Third Sector looked at the financial accounts of the top 150 charities by income. These included all types of charities, including general charities, independent hospitals and professional bodies. We then compiled a list of the 100 charities that paid their highest-earning staff members the most.

It shows that the London Clinic, an independent hospital, once again paid the highest amount, paying one unnamed staff member between £850,000 and £860,000.

The London Clinic declined to comment on the study, but a note in its accounts said that its highest earner’s remuneration included payments in lieu of notice. The amount it paid was almost £150,000 less than when Third Sector did the same study in 2013.

Nuffield Health, the hospital and fitness centre provider, was the second highest-paying charity again, paying between £770,000 and £780,000, including redundancy payments. The third-highest payer was St Andrew’s Healthcare, a medical charity, which paid between £750,000 and £760,000 to its former chief executive, Philip Sugarman, in his final year at the charity.  

Nuffield Health declined to name its highest earner, but a spokesman for the charity said the figure included redundancy payments and that its group chief executive, David Mobbs, was paid between £640,000 and £650,000.

The study found that 12 out of the top 100 charities paid their highest earners more than £300,000 and 32 paid more than £200,000.  

In the previous study, nine charities were found to have each paid their top earner more than £300,000 and 30 paid them more than £200,000.

Overall, the median salary across the top 100 charities was £165,000 – the same as it was two years ago.

But some of the biggest international aid organisations, which have been heavily criticised by some politicians and the national media for their senior executive pay levels, did not make this year’s list.

For example, Oxfam and Christian Aid paid less than £125,000 and thus fall just outside this year’s top 100. Other large charities that did not make the list include Sightsavers and the RSPB, both of which have incomes of more than £100m a year.

This year’s study included the total number of staff paid more than £60,000 for each charity. The British Council had the highest number of staff in this bracket, with 286. Next was CRUK, which had 189 staff earning above that amount. On average, the top 100 charities had 43 staff earning more than £60,000.

Stephen Cook, editor of Third Sector, said: "This study shows that criticism of senior charity pay, which has focused mainly on development charities and those that fundraise from the public, has mostly been directed at the wrong organisations.

"That might be because the critics do not realise that some high-paying private healthcare institutions and arts organisations are charities. Alternatively, it might be that the critics have targeted charities such as Oxfam and Shelter because they do not like the way they campaign, or because they object to the ring-fencing of the aid budget.

"There is a big differential between the pay of senior charity executives in general charities and those in private companies of comparable size and complexity.

"Most people, including charity executives themselves, would agree that charities should pay less. But getting the scale of the differential right and explaining how they set senior pay is an important communications task for charity trustees."

Read the full analysis of senior pay here

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