DFID responds to Daily Mail article on foreign aid wage bill

Priti Patel at Lokore dispensary
Priti Patel visits Lokore Dispensary to see how UKaid is supporting healthcare, tackling malnutrition and preventing malaria in Kenya. Photo: Twitter/DFID_UK

The UK’s Department for International Development has responded to claims made in the Daily Mail which claimed the foreign aid department’s wage bill had risen 40 per cent in seven years.

According to the article, the department’s wage bill now stands at £133 million, a £38 million increase from 2010 when David Cameron took power.

The former Prime Minister’s target of diverting 0.7 per cent of national income abroad saw spending reach £13.3billion last year.

International Aid spending has proved controversial with the amount being spent ring fenced, while cuts are being made back home to public sector pay and services. The figures have led to a Tory former minister calling for part of the aid budget to instead be spent on pay rises for police and nurses.

Priti Patel in Kenya
Secretary of State for international Development Priti Patel meets with a beneficiary of the Hunger Safety Net Programme.
Picture: Rob Oxley/DFID

The Daily Mail article claims that in 2010-2011, the Department for International Development had 1,822 staff, but by April this year year, the number had leapt to 2,208, while other ministries were axeing jobs and slashing budgets.

It goes on to state that half of the 386 extra employees have been added since Priti Patel took charge of the ministry last July.

“For all the talk of austerity, some parts of the public sector continue to have vast amounts of taxpayers’ money lavished upon them.

“It is absurd that the Government has taken the tax burden to a 30-year high while still borrowing more than £6.5million an hour, only to spend the proceeds on wasteful projects overseas and higher salaries for Dfid staff.”

– Alex Wild, Taxpayers’ Alliance

However, the Department for International Development have responded, stating that International Development Secretary Priti Patel, is leading an efficiency review which they estimate will save £500 million by 2019/20.

It goes on to say that staff are paid in line with Civil Service rules and that the department has some of the lowest overheads in Whitehall.

Priti Patel in Kenya
International Development Secretary Priti Patel listens to experiences from a beneficiary who has benefited from a malaria bed-net.
Picture: Rob Oxley/DFID

The statement on the British Government website read:

Today’s Daily Mail (1 July 2017) front page led with a story on the Department for International Development’s wage bill.

The International Development Secretary is leading a robust efficiency review which is estimated to save £500 million by 2019/20, higher than the target set in the 2015 Spending Review.

These savings will be made through reform of procurement and commercial practices, estates, IT and departmental pay.

The Department has some of the lowest overheads in Whitehall and has already reduced admin costs by a third to deliver the best value for money for the taxpayer.

To deliver value for money, save lives and keep Britain safe, DFID needs staff who can relentlessly scrutinise everything we do and work in the some of the most fragile and difficult places in the world.

Staff are paid in line with standard Civil Service rules.

The Daily Mail claims that under Priti Patel, the wages bill has risen by 7 per cent and that the Dfid hands out the highest salaries in Whitehall, averaging £53,000 a head, and one of only three of all 19 government departments to keep recruiting.

“When the nation’s finances are under such strain it is troubling that it costs so much to spend taxpayers’ money.

“Overseas aid seems to be the department of spendthrifts.”

– Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset

When Mr Cameron became prime minister £8.45billion was being spent on international development annually, but this outlay rose 57 per cent to £13.3billion last year, £700 a household.

With spending is linked to national output, this budget will grow in line with the economy even as other departments face cuts.

Before her appointment as International Development Secretary, Miss Patel called for Dfid to be abolished, but she launched an impassioned defence of the aid target in the run-up to the election when it appeared the 0.7 per cent target might be watered down.