Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith is being paid £819k this year

Peter Vicary-Smith
Peter Vicary-Smith

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of the consumers’ rights charity Which?, will be paid £819,000 in this financial year, including a bonus of almost half a million pounds.

The charity today published a mid-year review that shows he will receive a total of £819,000 in the financial year to 30 June 2016 after qualifying for a long-term incentive bonus totalling £493,000.

Vicary-Smith’s earnings include a basic salary of £235,000, £35,000 in allowances and a further bonus expected to be worth £56,000, the review shows. Set against figures in Third Sector’s pay study published last year, this potentially makes him the highest-paid person working for a registered charity.

The publication of the charity's first ever mid-year review comes after a two-month investigation by Third Sector into the governance arrangements and the long-term incentive scheme for senior executives at Which?.

The charity repeatedly declined to reveal the sums Vicary-Smith and others are being paid before the Third Sector article went to press on Monday. But this morning it published the review that contains the figures and gave an advance copy to The Times newspaper.

Three other Which? directors will also earn more than £400,000 this year under the long-term incentive payment plan.

Chris Gardner, managing director of Which? Publishing, a commercial arm of the charity, will earn £542,000 in incentive payments in addition to his basic salary of £180,000 a year, the review shows. Jacques Cadranel, group finance director of Which?, will receive incentive payments totalling £453,000 in addition to his basic salary of £153,000 a year. 

Kim Brosnan, Which?’s former group talent director, will receive incentive payments totalling £400,000, a spokeswoman for Which? confirmed. The review does not state her basic salary because she has left the organisation. 

The payments were made after the charity’s commercial activities grew by 68 per cent in the three years to July 2015, the charity says.

The Which? Group is wholly owned by the charity the Consumers’ Association and generates an income from its trading activities that include its Which? publishing business and Which? Financial Services, which provides mortgage advice. The incentive payments were funded entirely through its commercial operations.

The setting of high pay at the charity has caused concern among some of its ordinary members, subscribers to Which? products who hold additional voting rights.

Patrick Taylor, a Which? subscriber for more than 30 years, described the incentive payments as "unacceptable" in the Third Sector article, to be published tomorrow in print and online shortly afterwards. The investigation concludes that Vicary-Smith's pay this year will be close to £1m.

Tim Gardam, the recently appointed chair of Which?, said in a statement: "Which? continues to see strong, sustained commercial growth, which has enabled us to spend £33m on promoting consumer interests in the last three years. Our commercial success has enabled us to launch new free advice services, helping millions of people with our free content, and securing change for all consumers through our campaigns."

Gardam declined to be interviewed by Third Sector, but he told The Times that the charity would no longer pay such large sums during his time as chair. 

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