Row over bonuses for defence officials

Ministry of Defence officials have been handed nearly £40m in bonuses as the armed forces face drastic cuts.

Civilian staff were awarded 39.7m in performance-related pay this financial year, down from 44.2m in 2009-10.

The figures, disclosed to the Daily Mail in response to a Freedom of Information request, showed senior officials shared 2.7m, averaging 8,000 each.

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The payouts came as the coalition Government made deep cuts to the military budget as part of efforts to tackle the deficit, downgrading major projects and laying off thousands of service personnel.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, told the newspaper: "Our armed forces get no bonuses whatsoever when they go away to fight. It makes me wonder if we've got our priorities right.

"Civil servants don't face bombs and bullets. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen are the ones who should be receiving these payments, not the bureaucrats."

But an MoD spokesman said: "These are not bonuses, but a proportion of overall salary which is linked to performance.

"These awards are non-pensionable and have to be earned each year.

"In 2009-10 the average award, which is taxable, was 677. More than half of all MoD civil servants earn less than 20,000 a year."

The campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, Charlotte Linacre, said: "Taxpayers will be shocked that their money is being spent on bonuses for bureaucrats while frontline services are being scaled back.

"It shows a huge problem in the way public money is being allocated.

"Over the last decade, excessive Government spending opened a huge fiscal deficit with the salary bill for increasing numbers of bureaucrats skyrocketing - now that the deficit is being addressed, it's in the backroom that cuts should be made."