Under fire: Mike Betts and wife Julie
A controversial company providing taxpayer-funded cars for the disabled is facing a new row over the alleged cover-up of a £2 million bonus for its boss.
The secret payout is said to have been promised to Mike Betts, the chief executive of Motability Operations, which runs a charitable scheme that supplies vehicles to wheelchair users and others in return for part of their benefits.
But in a dramatic new development, the Mail has been told Mr Betts, 56, is in line for an additional ‘loyalty’ bonanza of £2 million – more than doubling his already-bloated annual takings.
Insiders say it was agreed five years ago, but has not come to light until now. It is thought Mr Betts is entitled to the vast sum – which is not related to his pension – in the ‘near future’.
Motability last night declined to say if Mr Betts had been awarded a £2million bonus, but denied concealing details of its executives’ pay.
The revelation comes after the Mail exposed a scandal at the heart of the Motability charity, which was set up in 1977 to help disabled people get around by leasing a car, scooter or powered wheelchair.
In February, this newspaper revealed how Motability, which gets all its money indirectly from the public purse, is hoarding £2.4 billion of public funds – enough to pay for seven new hospitals or 30 new schools.
The then work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, ordered three inquiries as a result of the Mail’s revelations, including one by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Last night former Labour minister Frank Field, chairman of the Commons work and pensions select committee which also investigated Motability, expressed anger over the new revelations.
‘The idea that Mr Betts deserves a £2 million bonus as well as £1.7 million a year defies belief and raises further serious questions about how Motability is run,’ he said.
‘If this information has been withheld from MPs, someone is for the high jump. I am referring this to the NAO.’
Mr Betts received a public mauling when he appeared before Mr Field’s committee nine months ago. MPs branded his salary – which has increased by nearly 80 per cent in nine years – as ‘grotesque’.
Mr Field lambasted him over the ‘large, large, large amount of money going into your pocket’, adding: ‘It is an affront to the disabled – cars for the disabled is bread and butter stuff. It just needs intelligent book-keeping.’
Crucially, there was no mention of a £2 million bonus at the time.
It is believed that figure is the true value of extra cash set aside by Motability for Mr Betts in what it describes as a ‘deferred bonus’. Insiders say that in reality it is a ‘loyalty’ payment to reward him for staying with the firm.
A ‘deferred bonus’ is referred to in Motability accounts – but not valued anywhere near as high as £2 million.
The company says its £2.4 billion ‘reserves’ are needed to guard against business risks, such as changes in the value of the pound and car prices.
But MPs disputed claims that its boardroom pay was on a par with bosses of FTSE 250 companies, arguing its monopoly of government money for disabled drivers made it a risk-free enterprise.
In response to the Mail’s investigation, Motability recently found a spare £500 million for disabled drivers.
A source close to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said: ‘It is not right for obscene salaries to be paid using money made on the back of disability benefits.’
The source said Miss Rudd was seeking an urgent meeting with Motability chairman Lord Sterling.
The scheme was set up to help disabled people get around, and supplies more than 600,000 vehicles.
Its customers’ £58-a-week mobility benefits are paid directly to the company, in return for a new vehicle.
Motability gets £2 billion a year in disabled benefits and income from the second-hand car market when vehicles are sold after three years.
It also receives £750 million-a-year tax relief which stops private competition.
The firm is owned by Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and HSBC and borrows from them to buy new cars for its fleet.
A Motability spokesman said ‘full details’ of Mr Betts’ pay had been given to Mr Field’s committee, adding: ‘Our reporting of all executive remuneration is fully in line with the Companies Act.’
The NAO’s report into Motability is due to be published on Friday.