When the Redrow board announced it was taking a combined £271,000 in performance bonuses this year, even a few City analysts raised an eyebrow.

Not known for their readiness to criticise the bonus culture, some questioned how it would look after a year of mass redundancies and, more to the point, what can only be described as a year of underperformance.

"Bonuses can always be waived," said one analyst. "As can salaries. These are performance bonuses but what exactly was the performance?"

Redrow defended the payments in the following terms:

"Redrow's remuneration policy is based on strict performance criteria being met. Consistent with this policy, the remuneration package awarded to the company's directors is in line with their contractual entitlements with the awards earned in 2007/08 related to the achievement of individual objectives.”

Barratt bosses didn't take a bonus because they failed to hit such objectives, a fact that someone close to Redrow was keen to point out.  "There was nothing magnanimous about it," they said.

The City is unlikely to become exercised about such ethical issues and Redrow will no doubt ride out the "fat cat" headlines.

But as the housebuilding market deteriorates, perhaps bosses should think about how it looks against a background of mounting casualties rather than their contractual enititlements.

It will be interesting to see what Persimmon does. It's not known for its aversion to hefty pay packets - but that was during the good years. As its unscheduled stock market update this morning showed, they are long gone.