LOSS-MAKING Royal Bank of Scotland has come under fire for awarding share packages worth up to £23 million to senior executives.

The 81%-state-owned lender, which reported a £8.2bn loss in 2013, has revealed it has given more than 1.5 million shares worth a total of £5.2m before tax for meeting performance targets to nine directors over three years to March 2014.

And RBS has agreed another long-term incentive plan will see a further near-5.57 million shares worth more than £18m given out to executives depending on performance by March 2017.

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The move has been strongly criticised by consumer groups, who have called for a rethink.

Chief executive Ross McEwan waived his annual bonus for 2013 and 2014 but was given shares worth up to £3m under the plan, which will vest on March 7, 2017.

The Government said in January it would veto any attempt for RBS to increase its overall bonus bill, but did not mention individual pay awards.

The bank has made losses totalling £46bn since it was bailed out in 2008 - just above the amount taxpayers paid for its rescue during the 2008 financial crisis.

Consumer Action Group founder Marc Gander said: "I think that most UK citizens would consider this kind if largesse to be a breach of trust. What kind of spree will they embark upon when the bank is returned to private ownership?"

Mr McEwan, who was appointed in October last year, vowed to transform the bank's image, describing it as "the least trusted company in the least trusted sector of the economy".

While announcing the £8bn loss, the biggest since its UK Government bail-out seven years ago, the state-owned bank confirmed it was seeking backing to double the level of employee bonuses while saying it had made the provisions to cover litigation and mis-selling claims relating to the financial crisis.

Mr McEwan also confirmed the bank was still retaining a staff bonus pot of £576m, despite the huge loss, to "keep people engaged".

The bonuses included £237m for its investment bankers.

The annual loss for 2013 was £3bn more than the previous year and the biggest since the £24.3bn deficit in 2008. In January, the Edinburgh-based bank made a point of stating that nine of its top executives would waive their bonuses for last year.

Bankers' bonuses continue to plague the industry as banks appear to attempt to sidestep EU rules which limit bonuses to 100% of annual salaries, or 200% with shareholder approval.

The ten most senior executives at the 31%-taxpayer-owned Lloyds were awarded £12m in bonuses through shares. Lloyds made a modest profit of £415m last year.

The rules are being challenged by Chancellor George Osborne amid fears that limiting pay could threaten London's position as a leading global financial centre.