‘Abysmal’ contractor defends £8m payout to risk-taking boss

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A COMPANY which won hundreds millions of pounds of Government contracts to get people back has defended the £8m pocketed by its Sheffield-born boss last year.

MPs have criticised the £11m paid in dividends to the five shareholders of A4e, 87 per cent of which is owned by Emma Harrison who is advising David Cameron on getting families back to work.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee have also questioned the success of the company, which has won lucrative contracts for the Government’s flagship Work Programme, on previous back-to-work schemes.

But last night the company hit back, saying Ms Harrison, who owns historic Thornbridge Hall in the Peak District, was paid the going rate.

The company also questioned claims by MPs that its performance on the old Pathways to Work programme had been “abysmal”, insisting its success rate was above average and that all providers underperformed.

A spokesman said: “For the past 21 years, Ms Harrison has taken substantial and significant risks in growing the company.

“Like all entrepreneurs, she has provided personal guarantees and invested significant amount of her personal capital into the company during its lifetime.

He added: “Having built a private company with her own resources, and continued to invest and take risks, her remuneration is in line with that of a successful entrepreneur.”

Ms Harrison became a Government favourite for her drive to get the unemployed back to work.