British Gas CEO O’Shea gets 80% payrise amid booming profits

  • Post last modified:March 27, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

The boss of British Gas’s parent company Centrica, Chris O’Shea, was given over an 80% payrise in 2023 – despite customers struggling to pay their bills, controversy over it sending bailiffs to force-fit prepayment meters – and the CEO himself saying just weeks ago he was paid too much.

British Gas: money for nothing

As reported:

Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea’s total pay package in 2023 was £8.2 million, a jump of more than 80% from 2022, the British Gas owner’s annual report showed on Tuesday.

O’Shea’s total remuneration in 2023 included bonuses and awards of about £7.3 million.

Centrica in February had hiked dividends by about 33% after annual profits surged last year, partly driven by one-off benefits as the government provided help for consumers struggling with high-energy costs and compensated energy suppliers for unpaid debts they could not recover.

O’Shea’s pay can hardly be down to an ethical performance by British Gas. For example, as the Canary reported in February 2023, a month earlier an undercover investigation by the Times newspaper found that contractors working for British Gas sent debt collectors to “break into” homes and “force-fit” meters.

Some of the customers the report identified had “extreme vulnerabilities”. Journalist Paul Morgan-Bentley went undercover with British Gas and exposed its practice. He noted that the company was breaking into the homes of disabled people.

Then, there’s fuel poverty. National Energy Action (NEA) reported that some four million households across the UK were in fuel poverty by October 2021. The NEA estimates there will be 6.5 million households in fuel poverty in the UK in April when the new price cap comes in.

Amid this, British Gas’s profits surged – from £72m in 2022 to a staggering £751m in 2023.

O’Shea: ‘nothing to do with me’

Yet without irony, O’Shea himself told BBC Breakfast back in January that:

You can’t justify a salary of that size… It’s a huge amount of money; I am incredibly fortunate. I don’t set my own pay; that’s set by our remuneration committee.

His statement leaves you wondering what he has to say about his 80-something-percent increase now. People on X had a few answers to that:

British Gas: happy to screw us over

Meanwhile, Luke Hildyard is the executive director for the High Pay Centre – a think tank focused on pay, corporate governance and responsible business. He said:

As Mr O’Shea himself admitted a few weeks ago, it’s not really credible to argue the work that he does is at all proportionate to a pay award even half this size, nor is it necessary to the success of the company. It’s a major governance failure and by extension a policy failure.

The dysfunctional pay culture of corporate Britain is one of the biggest economic problems facing the country. We should stop major employers from wasting so much money on a tiny number of executives and investors, and put it towards something more efficient and socially useful like raising the pay of the wider workforce or investment in research and technology.

Amen to that. O’Shea’s preposterously high salary has no justification – apart from rewarding people who are happy to screw the rest of us over.

Featured image via BBC News – screengrab and Wikimedia

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