Dominic Cummings Defends 40% Pay Rise, Saying He Took Salary Cut On Joining No.10

Ex-chief adviser says increase followed 2019 general election and was unconnected to Covid crisis.
Dominic Cummings
Dominic Cummings
House of CommonsPA

Dominic Cummings has justified his 40% pay rise by claiming he deliberately took a salary cut when he first started working for Boris Johnson “to sort out the Brexit mess”.

In his first public appearance since quitting as the prime minister’s chief aide, Cummings told MPs that his wages jumped from £100,000 to £140,000 only after the 2019 general election triumph and denied it was linked to his role in the Covid crisis.

The former chief adviser also used his session before the Commons Science and Technology Committee to lambast the civil service as a “disaster zone”, claiming the pandemic exposed it as “an extremely bureaucratic system that can’t cope with a crisis”.

In a wider attack on the Treasury and on Whitehall’s lack of scientific expertise, he called for “extreme freedom” for the new £800 Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria), which is seen as his brainchild for funding “high risk” projects.

The 40% pay rise for Cummings, who was last seen exiting No.10 in December after a bitter power struggle saw him ousted, has been seized on by Labour as a contrast to the 1% wage offer to NHS nurses.

Quizzed by Labour’s Dawn Butler, Cummings said: “The media reports about me getting a pay rise after Covid are wrong.

“It is true that I interfered with the pay system, regarding my own pay. But that was in summer 2019, when I arrived I was put on the normal pay band for my position of 140 something thousand.

“I said that I didn’t want that, I only wanted to be paid what I was paid at Vote Leave. I figured that I should be paid the same for trying to sort out the Brexit mess as I’d been paid for doing Vote Leave so I asked for a pay cut, which is what happened in summer 2019.

“For some reason this has appeared in the media as if I got a pay rise after Covid. But that didn’t happen. When we were all rehired the day after the election, then I moved back onto the normal paygrade for my position.”

Cummings told the committee that when Johnson visited him the weekend before he became PM in the summer of 2019, he had three key conditions for taking a post in Downing Street.

“The prime minister came to speak to me, the Sunday before he became prime minister, and said would I come into Downing Street to try and help sort out the huge Brexit nightmare.

“I said: ‘Yes, if first of all, you’re deadly serious about actually getting Brexit done and avoiding a second referendum. Secondly, double the science budget. Third, create some ARPA-like [research] entity. And fourth, support me in trying to change how Whitehall works and the Cabinet Office work because it’s a disaster zone’. And he said: ‘Deal’.”

Cummings also revealed he had hired a neuroscientist from a US research facility. “He now works in No.10. And he made some critical contributions to how we, how the British government, dealt with Covid last year.”

Cummings, who was heavily criticised when he broke Covid rules to drive with his family to Durham last year, will be giving evidence separately to two Commons committees on his role in the pandemic.

But in a preview of his case, he appeared to blame Whitehall civil servants for some of the early failures, claiming there was a lack of scientific expertise.


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