Academy trust defends decision to provide BMW cars for senior leaders

News comes as more calls are made for curbs on pay of academy chain executives

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An academy trust has defended its decision to provide BMW cars for its senior leaders.

The news comes as the pay of senior academy leaders comes under renewed focus, with an academy movement pioneer restating his call for a cap on CEO salaries.

The packages of four senior leaders at Swale Academies Trust, which runs 10 schools in Kent, Bromley and East Sussex, include the use of company BMWs worth tens of thousands of pounds, it was reported this morning.

They include chief executive Jon Whitcombe, whose pay rose from £150-155,000 in 2015 to £170-175,000 in 2016.

The trust told The Sunday Times that “as a hands-on CEO”, Mr Whitcombe needed to drive between the trust’s schools.

It added that having a company BMW made his “frequent long journeys safe and comfortable”, allowing him to “focus on improving the schools in his care”,

In January, Tes revealed the names of the 111 academy trustees – mainly chief executives and executive principals – who received more than the Prime Minister’s £150,000 salary in 2016.

Last month, Tes exclusively revealed that Lord Adonis, a former Labour minister who was an architect of the academies programme, had called for curbs on the pay of academy trust leaders.

He reiterated that demand this weekend, tweeting: “No academy chief exec or head should be paid +£150k - just as no Vice Chancellor shd be. Time for leaders to .... lead.”

He later added that the Department for Education should try to reach agreement with academy trusts over salaries, but, if that failed, should amend their funding agreements.

The debate follows concerns about the lack of transparency about how academy trust CEO’s salaries are set.

A Tes investigation revealed a near blanket refusal by academy trusts to provide details of why they awarded large pay rises, a situation the Commons Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier described as “amazing”.

Last month, the DfE tightened the rules surrounding executive pay.

A new section of the Academies Financial Handbook, which will apply in 2017-18, says: “The board of trustees must ensure that their decisions about levels of executive pay follow a robust evidence-based process and are reflective of the individual’s role and responsibilities.”

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