16m pay bonanza for five British Gas bosses: Windfall came just weeks after inflation-busting price increases
Chief executive Sam Laidlaw is handed 5million
Figures emerge in Centrica's annual report showing British Gas made 606million profitOfgem predict the average gas and electricity bill will rise to 1,420 by end of next year

was 1,188 and customers have seen their prices double over the last seven years.

A total of 2.5million families are estimated to live in ‘fuel poverty’, which means they have to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on their energy bill.

Details of the pay rewards released yesterday show that Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw received a near 5million pay package comprising 950,000 basic pay, a 1million cash and shares bonus, and a 2.6million longer term incentive. He and his top team share 16.4million.

Mr Bentley will step down in June following a management overhaul. Sources within the firm suggest he may have fallen out with Mr Laidlaw over strategic direction.

Sitting pretty: Centrica chief Sam Laidlaw

Sitting pretty: Centrica chief Sam Laidlaw

He stands to walk away with a fortune accumulated over the past 13 years within Centrica.

He owns shares worth 8.1million, using a price of 365p a share, which he either bought with his own cash or which have been given to him in reward packages.

He also stands to benefit from shares linked to future performance that could be worth 2.3million if 60 per cent of targets are reached over the next three years, or 4.1million if 100 per cent is reached.

If the 5.4million pension pot is included, Mr Bentley could walk away with as much as 17.6million in June, on top of last year’s 3million pay package.

Even that is not all – the firm is keeping him on as a consultant until the end of the year, giving him an extra 315,000 in pay.

The huge rewards were widely condemned yesterday.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called on the Government to introduce an immediate cap on excessive executive pay, saying it was ‘an insult to millions of working people living through the worst recession in a generation and the worst March weather in 50 years’.

Mr McCluskey said the groundswell of anger at this ‘latest abuse by an almost monopoly industry’ demands immediate action.

‘Enough is enough,’ he said.

‘This excessive greed which sees casino bankers and the corporate elite running British business pocket millions, while working people struggle to pay their soaring household bills, must stop.

'As Britain goes through the worst March weather in half a century, the sun shines brightly on Centrica’s bosses while those struggling to pay the bills shiver.’

Controversy is raging over the impact on consumer bills of green measures.

Controversy is raging over the impact on consumer bills of green measures.

Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB, the union which represents gas workers, said: ‘We condemn these salaries, paid from the budgets of hard-pressed households.

'It is obscene and is the straw that could break the back of corporate excess.’

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said: ‘British Gas customers will be astonished at these bumper pay-outs.

'When hard-pressed families have seen their bills go up by 100 this winter there are serious questions about how they can justify paying millions to their executives.’

Before the winter all the big six energy providers – British Gas, EDF, SSE, Eon, Npower and Scottish Power – announced big tariff increases.

Another rise of up to 5 per cent is expected this year, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility, the Government’s independent forecasting body.

The increase of around 70 would push the average bill across the industry to 1,420 a year.

Centrica was formed in 1997 and is among the 30 largest British companies on the London Stock Exchange. It controls British Gas in the UK and operates in America.

A spokesman said: ‘At Centrica, pay and bonuses are based squarely on performance.

‘In 2012, we delivered another year of consistent earnings growth and invested 2.7billion to secure energy supplies for our customers, as we continued to improve service levels both in the UK and North America.

‘In the current climate there is understandably a wider debate in society about pay differentials. We are focused at Centrica on ensuring that pay and bonuses are fair and that we are clear in explaining our remuneration.’


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Shopping around: The best fixed-rate plans are cheaper than all the big six suppliers standard deals