Three chief information officers are among the highest paid civil servants in Whitehall, with salaries that outstrip that of the prime minister and the most senior leaders in government.
The salaries reflect the importance placed by the government and the civil service on the IT-based modernisation of some large central departments. The three top-paid CIOs are running IT-based change programmes that together are worth at least £16bn.
Research by Computer Weekly has established that the three – Steve Lamey of HM Revenue and Customs, Joe Harley of the Department for Work and Pensions, and Richard Granger, Director General NHS IT – received salaries that were higher than those of their bosses and permanent secretaries who run other departments, such as the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Their salaries also exceeded that of the Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell who is the highest-ranking civil servant. And they each earned more than the Chief of the Defence Staff.
Their salaries were between £240,000 and £285,000 – at least 25% more than the salary of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The pay is more than twice the average for CIOs in the private and public sectors. A CIO survey conducted by global recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash last year put the average salary at £104,000, compared with £84,800 the previous year.
And beyond Whitehall, non-civil servants who work for the wider public sector can earn even larger sums than Lamey, Granger or Harley. David Burden, group CIO at Royal Mail, earned £359,000 in 2006.
Cathy Holley, a partner at executive search specialist Boyden, said that the government must offer good salaries to attract people who have a track record of successfully transforming organisations of enormous size and complexity.
But it is more than the salary that coaxes top IT directors to the public sector – in the private sector, CIOs can earn more than £1m. Richard Granger has said that the public sector “attracts people not primarily motivated by money, but dedicated to delivering a public service”.
Not all government CIOs earn salaries of more than £200,000. The Ministry of Justice is recruiting an IT director at a salary of up to £110,000. And Ian Watmore, the former government CIO and later head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, earned about £195,000, according to the latest figures.
Only one Whitehall civil servant earned a salary approaching those of Granger, Harley and Lamey in 2006-7: Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, earned between £230,000 and £235,000 in 2006-7.
Stephen Hickey, Director General at the Department for Transport, who has been a member of the government’s CIO Council, earned £125,000 in 2005/6. Around the same amount was paid to Phillip Webb, the now-retired head of the Police Information Technology Agency, which has been subsumed into the National Policing Improvement Agency.
Anne Pringle, head of strategy and information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earned £95,000 in 2005/6, less than half that of her boss, Sir Michael Jay, head of the department.
Annette Vernon, CIO at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, was paid the equivalent of about £150,000 in 2005/6, according to the department’s latest accounts.
Harvey Nash CIO salary survey 2006 – summary
Profile of Joe Harley