June 5: Rewards for failure at Morrisons

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THE disgruntlement expressed by many Morrisons shareholders over the severance package awarded to former chief executive Dalton Philips is entirely understandable.

Such sentiment, which saw votes cast against the award at yesterday’s annual meeting, is shared by a British public at large 
which has grown tired of seeing departing top executives pocket eye-watering pay-offs.

Those who achieve success in a high-pressured business environment, creating considerable value for shareholders in doing so, deserve to be financially recognised for their work. In the case of Mr Philips, however, it appears to be yet another reward for failure.

Under his stewardship, the Bradford-based retailer (and its investors) endured a torrid time as profits slumped. Yet he is still set to be awarded a bumper package worth £3m, including more than half-a-million pounds in bonus payments.

This is sadly part of the increasingly depressing modern-day merry-go-round which sees corporate figures walk away with severance packages beyond the wildest dreams of those whose hard-earned money is used to fund them. It is a process that started with Fred “The Shred” Goodwin and has continued ever since.

It is a fallacy that these telephone number packages have to be offered in order to secure the cream of the crop, as it is often clear from their subsequent performance that these individuals are not nearly as good as they, and others, seem to think.

In the case of Mr Philips, it is a pity that his performance while in the job was not as impressive as his apparent talent when it came to negotiating the financial package he received for it.

The good news is that new chief executive David Potts appears to be making a far better fist of reversing the chain’s decline, recording a return to profit this week and yesterday securing the public backing of Sir Ken Morrison himself.

Changing face

The reinvention of the WI

THERE WAS a touch of irony in the sight of the Queen cutting a specially-created cake to mark the centenary of the Women’s Institute – the organisation she joined in 1943 and now serves as honorary president.

For while the WI was long associated with bake sales and knitting, the modern face of this institution is far removed from the “jam

and Jerusalem” image of yore. The organisation is going from strength to strength with new branches opening every month, attracting women in their 20s and 30s as well as the recently retired. The Duchess of Cambridge is said to be keen to join her local branch.

Crafts may still be on the agenda but so too are less typical activities. Leeds is home to Buns & Roses, a younger WI which alongside crochet and knitting offers members the chance to learn bricklaying and street dance.

It is hard not to think that this reinvention owes a great deal to a group of women from North Yorkshire. More than 15 years ago, members of the Rylstone and District WI famously created a risque – and much imitated – calendar to raise money after one of their husbands was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and later died from the illness.

Their story was immortalised in the hit film Calendar Girls and is now set to be turned into a musical.

This capacity to reinvent itself and appeal to new generations of women – while retaining the unique spirit which saw it back the campaign for the female vote and memorably slow handclap Tony Blair – cements the WI’s status as a modern-day success story that other organisations would do well to follow.

English World Cup

Switch would be symbolic move

THE DECISION by Fifa to award a World Cup to a country where summer temperatures exceed 50 degrees provoked less astonishment than it should for the simple reason that many believed, rightly or wrongly, that the vote was rigged.

That question will now be considered by investigators whose exposure of alleged corruption has already triggered the resignation of president Sepp Blatter, who many believe to be the rotten head of a thoroughly rotten governing body.

If sufficient evidence is discovered that leads to Qatar being stripped of its right to stage the 2022 tournament then England, quite rightly, has asked to

be considered as an alternative host.

Indeed, given that recent allegations have cast such a heavy cloud over world football that it effectively finds itself having to start again, it would be entirely fitting if the symbolic decision was made to do so in the country that gave the sport to the globe.