The postman always rings the cash till

They say that timing is everything. When it comes to announcing gargantuan bonus payments, perhaps Royal Mail should have thought about that. Alan Cook, managing director of the Post Office, is in line for a £1m bonus - on top of his £250,000-a-year salary - if he completes the unenviable task of closing 2,500 post offices. This at a time when postal workers are already striking over their pay and conditions. And the timing is made even worse by the prior news of the bonus enjoyed by Adam Crozier, chief executive of Royal Mail - understood to be £370,000 on top of his £615,000 salary last year.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Such bulging pay cheques are sure to add fuel to the fire already raging around executive pay, particularly when their jobs involve tampering with well-loved public institutions. Cook's bonus, which was personally approved by Alan Johnson who was trade and industry secretary at the time, has come under particular flak for the fact that it is a direct reward for reducing a public service, rather than improving it. It's not a million miles away from the five-figure ‘performance bonuses' received by Environment Agency chiefs, shortly before the flooding crisis hit the UK.

Cook's task of returning the Post Office to profitability is clearly a tough job, and so should of course be rewarded like any difficult management role. But if such institutions are going to be run like private companies, then they need to work a little on the issue of their PR.

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