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Banker enjoys lavish lifestyle as jobs cut

Tesco Bank boss Higgins in £18,000 taxi bills storm

Benny HigginsTesco Bank boss Benny Higgins is being accused of enjoying a lavish lifestyle despite a tough clampdown on costs ordered by group chief executive Dave Lewis.

Mr Higgins is said to have spent £18,000 in the last eight months on taxis, including private visits to top restaurants, the opera and five-star hotels, as well as hundreds of pounds ferrying his daughters to London airports.

The millionaire banker spent £389.85 on a taxi from the Soho Hotel to the Victoria & Albert museum which would have cost less than £5 on the London Underground.

He spent more than £170  on trips to and from the Royal Opera House from the Soho Hotel – a 15-minute walk. Other trips were made to The Ivy, Japanese restaurant Roka and Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen.

Details of claims by Mr Higgins and his personal assistant, published by The Guardian, also show more than £700 spent on taxis booked for airport transfers, with his daughters named as passengers.

Mr Higgins, 56, has been in charge of Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank since 2008 following his departure from HBOS a year earlier. He was previously a high-flyer with Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life.

The claims come amid a tough drive on costs ordered by Mr Lewis since his arrival from Unilever in October 2014 to sort out the ailing group.

Mr Lewis said he would travel by train rather than by car into London from the company’s headquarters in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. He said this would pay for a member of staff in one of its stores for one day.

Mr Higgins’ taxi claims equate to the annual salary of a shop assistant.

He claimed for trips to Sopwell House, a Georgian country house hotel and spa near St Albans, and Hanbury Manor, a five-star hotel and country club in Hertfordshire.

Others which went through the Tesco claims process include a return trip to literary agent Madeleine Milburn, and visits to a skin clinic, designer furniture store and an antiques dealer.

Mr Higgins, who earned £2.2m last year, is said to have claimed for more than one trip from his London base to the airport on the same weekend.

Tesco said in a statement to Daily Business: All Tesco colleagues adhere to a clear policy that allows travel and other expenses for business reasons.”

Other Tesco Bank directors appear to have claimed big expenses. Therese Procter, the bank’s people director,  billed the company for more than £9,000 in eight months, including membership of the exclusive Ivy Club in London, favoured by celebrities such as Kate Moss and Kevin Spacey.

The bank cut about 240 head office jobs last year and is understood to be considering a further cut.

Store staff received a 3.1% increase in basic pay this year, ahead of the introduction of the new minimum wage for over-25s, but they are no longer paid extra for working on Sundays or bank holidays.

 



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