West Midlands Ambulance Service chief being paid 'double the money he should', health minister says
The chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service is being paid 'double the money he should' for running another trust in the East of England, a health minister has said.
Junior health minister Dan Poulter is writing to the chairmen of both ambulance trusts saying Mr Marsh about the £232,000-a-year chief executive after it emerged he is running up taxi bills of £400 a week to travel between the two areas.
The services have previously categorically denied that Mr Marsh has a driver after sources claimed he was being 'chauffeured' around.
But details have emerged of his arrangements to be driven between the West Midlands and Cambridgeshire so he can split his time between the two trusts.
WMAS said the arrangement saved the taxpayer money because Mr Marsh was working in the car and the journey took less time than using multiple trains.
Dr Poulter, who is a junior health minister and an NHS hospital doctor, said: "Whatever they say, it's a profligate use of taxpayers' money. He is a highly skilled man and doing a very good job – but he is being paid double the money he should.
"From the point of view of ordinary members of staff this is something that could be very demoralising. It is unacceptable and quite obscene. I will be writing to the chairs of both the trusts and raise the issue with my ministerial colleague Earl Howe."
Earl Howe is responsible for the ambulance service at the Department of Health.
Mr Marsh was given a £50,000 increase to his salary, taking him to £232,000 a year, when he took on the role of leading the struggling East of England Ambulance Service alongside his duties in the West Midlands.
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He now splits his time between the two areas, working on average two days a week in the West Midlands and three in the East of England.
He uses hotels in the East of England and expenses figures have shown he has claimed £75 a night for bed and breakfast at the upmarket Champney's spa in Henlow.
He also has a £9,400 car allowance as part of his role with the West Midlands Ambulance Service.
But it has also been revealed he uses a taxi service to get between his home in Bridgnorth and the East of England headquarters in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, costing up to £400 a week.
Last month the Express & Star asked East of England Ambulance Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service about the arrangements for driving Mr Marsh.
WMAS spokesman John Hawker said: "Mr Marsh does not have and has never had a driver. When Mr Marsh attends meetings he will usually travel with other members of staff attending the same meetings so that he can continue to work en-route.
"It would be a ludicrous waste of tax payers money to have him drive himself rather than continue to work whilst travelling. A range of staff have driven him including a member of staff from the executive office. At most that might happen one day per week; that member of staff also provides a wide range of business support such as drafting presentations and compiling reports which can be done remotely should it be required."
Asked about the £400 a week taxi cost, spokesman Murray MacGregor said: "Mr Marsh uses the most cost effective way of getting there. If he's travelling into London, he'll use the train. He uses a taxi firm so he can continue to work. He answers all his own emails because he wants to hear from staff directly.
"By doing the job of two chief executives, Anthony Marsh is saving taxpayers in excess of £100,000 a year. At East of England he has helped to turn the service around, taken £8 million a year out of back office costs and invested in the front line."
But Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, said Dr Poulter's intervention showed there were concerns about the costs of Mr Marsh's joint role.
He said: "We've now heard from a health minister that Mr Marsh is paid in his view twice as much as he should.
"For weeks newspapers and elected representatives have been raising legitimate questions about how the financial arrangements for this post have come about and now a Department of Health minister has admitted there is a problem."
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