Study: Executive Pay Up 12% As Staff 'Suffer'

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The UK's top bosses enjoyed average annual pay rises of 12% last year, despite the FTSE 100 (Euronext: VFTSE.NX - news) share index losing 6% of its value.

The figure, in the latest pay report by proxy voting agency Manifest and remuneration consultancy MM&K, has reignited the row over executive pay which has recently been played out in the so-called Shareholder Spring.

According to the report, the average settlement was £4.8m but a quarter of blue-chip bosses took home pay and bonus rises of 41%.

It said basic salaries for FTSE 100 chiefs rose 2.5% but total earnings were boosted by deferred bonuses and long-term awards.

During the period, the market lost value as confidence was shattered by the effects of the euro crisis and Government spending cuts.

Many public sector jobs were lost and salaries frozen while private companies followed suit.

In the FTSE 100, below-inflation pay increases came in at an average of 1%.

The study found that Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) chief executive Bob Diamond was the top earner, after securing total realisable remuneration of nearly £21m.

It said the second highest paid was Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and chief executive of advertising company WPP (LSE: WPP.L - news) who received £11.6m on the same measure.

He faces the prospect of becoming the latest boss to face pressure on his pay award when WPP holds its AGM in Dublin on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting, he launched a staunch defence of his award package in a bid to thwart revolt, saying it was on a par with other such executives in a competitive market place.

The Shareholder Spring has so far seen five remuneration reports defeated, though the votes are currently non-binding.

Investor pressure has already claimed several scalps so far this year, including Aviva (LSE: AV.L - news) 's Andrew Moss and AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN.L - news) 's David Brennan.

The Business Secretary Vince Cable is currently drawing up plans to give greater power to shareholders but is understood to be considering watering down proposals for a binding annual vote in favour of a poll every three years.

In reaction to today's pay figures he agreed some bosses deserved the money they were receiving but said it was clear the Government's intervention was right.

He said: "What has emerged in recent years is that executive pay has gone way ahead of the performance of companies and that's why we've seen this rebellion by shareholders."