Fury as families tsar gets £8.6m in one year

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Training fortune: Emma Harrison, who was appointed by David Cameron in 2010 to help get problem families back into work, paid herself an astonishing £8.6m in a dividend from her firm A4e last year

The woman appointed by David Cameron to get problem families back into work pocketed £8.6million last year – most of it from the taxpayer.

Emma Harrison paid herself the huge dividend from her firm A4e, which makes all its UK income from state contracts.

The payout is up 300 per cent on the year before even though MPs say the company’s record on job schemes is ‘abysmal’. 

Labour’s Margaret Hodge described the fees paid to A4e as ‘an outrage’. Another Labour MP said the dividend was a reward for failure.

Mrs Harrison was made ‘families champion’ in December 2010 to advise on getting 120,000 troubled households in work.

Her boast that she could find jobs for the long-term unemployed won her a string of lucrative Whitehall contracts.

She became even more prominent in the aftermath of last summer’s riots and, in December, the Prime Minister hailed her as an inspiration.

‘She has real ambition for these families and I know we can count on her to help drive this campaign forward,’ he said. 

The dividend is especially embarrassing for Mr Cameron because he has called on firms dependent on taxpayer money to exercise ‘restraint’ at a time of austerity.

Labour MP Julie Elliott said: ‘David Cameron claims he believes there should be no such thing as reward for failure. 

‘But today it emerges one of his own advisers has rewarded herself dividends worth millions of pounds despite the abysmal record her company has for delivering government contracts.

‘This case raises serious questions over the credibility of this Government when it comes to ensuring there are no rewards for failure.’ 

Details of the massive payment were revealed during a hearing of the Commons public accounts committee into the Government’s flagship Work Programme.

A4e is one of the main contractors and receives payments for helping the long-term unemployed find a job. Half of its work is subcontracted to charities, generating millions in management fees.

MPs voiced astonishment at the size of the payment to Mrs Harrison, and questioned why the firm had continued to win contracts despite the ‘abysmal’ record.

The company even received a share of £63million in ‘termination fees’ when the DWP ended a previous back-to-work programme in which the firm was involved and replaced it with a new one.

MPs were told that A4e had missed its target of getting 30 per cent of people on the previous ‘Pathways to Work’ programme into a job. The committee heard the success rate was 9 per cent.

The company last night claimed a 24.2 per cent final figure.

Despite missing its targets the firm was taken on to run five lucrative contracts.

Mrs Hodge, Labour chairman of the committee, described the fees as an outrage. She said the dividend payment contrasted sharply with the ‘meanness’ the company displayed toward the charities that carry out much of its work.

During terse exchanges with the firm’s chief executive Andrew Dutton, she said: ‘You and Emma Harrison have to accept that there will be a different interest in the remuneration and profits made because the profits you make come from the taxes that ordinary, hard-working people pay.’ 

Tory MP Steve Barclay said the size of the payment raised serious questions about whether the public was getting value for money from the Work Programme.

He questioned whether the Department for Work and Pensions should continue paying management fees that are not linked to performance.

‘It’s not A4e’s fault if they get paid for poor delivery. What matters is whether we are getting value for money. That is why we need change,’ he added.

Mr Dutton defended the vast payout to Mrs Harrison, saying: ‘The dividends we pay to shareholders reflect the personal risk that they have. 

‘Having owned a company for over 21 years, at times they have had to effectively put their own homes and mortgages on the line.’ 

In a statement last night A4e said that although it had missed its targets its performance was better than the industry average.

A spokesman said Mrs Harrison’s payout was in line with that of a successful entrepreneur who invested and took risks.

By Jason Groves, Political Correspondent and Louise Eccles, Daily Mail

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