Mervyn King left the Bank of England with presents and parties costing more than £23,000 ($35,700), the central bank admitted, striking a discordant note for some in a country still feeling the pinch of austerity.
King, who stepped down as bank governor at the end of June, was presented with a painting of himself worth £10,000, a silver napkin ring costing £597 pounds and a sculpture of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the elder statesman of German literature, costing £2,505.
Britain’s central bank confirmed the presents and figures on Wednesday following a request for information. The bank, which is ultimately funded by the taxpayer, also footed the bill for three leaving parties costing £10,000.
Bank insiders said the portrait and napkin ring were traditional gifts given to parting central bank governors. The sculpture of Goethe was bought after friends were sounded out.
Media outlets were quick to criticize the expense. “What austerity?” asked the Daily Mail newspaper website which called the revelation “embarrassing”.
The bank’s press team was quick to point out that King had dedicated more than 20 years to public service and had requested his £302,885 salary be frozen in 2010 and 2011, in sympathy with other public sector workers who were suffering pay freezes.
King’s successor, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, joined the bank in July with a salary of £624,000 as well as a £250,000-a-year housing allowance.
Bank of England defends King’s lavish leaving presents