UK & World News

  • 16 December 2013, 6:00

BBC 'Risked Reputation' Over Executives' Pay

The BBC has been accused by MPs of risking its reputation over pay-outs to senior staff.

The Public Accounts Committee said some of the justifications for the payments were "extraordinary".

Among the excessive pay-outs given to senior staff were 470,000 given to former director-general George Entwistle after only 54 days in the job, and 680,000 to former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson.

Deputy director-general Mark Byford departed the BBC with a total pay-out of 949,000.

The committee heard evidence in two sessions from BBC figures, including outgoing HR boss Lucy Adams, the current director-general Tony Hall and former director-general Mark Thompson.

Ms Hodge said: "The BBC is the world's leading public sector broadcaster, but recent revelations over severance payments to departing senior managers have put its reputation at risk.

"150 senior managers between them received payments totalling 25m. We were dismayed to find that many of these individuals received 'sweeteners' in their severance packages that were far larger than the sums to which they were contractually entitled."

She said there was "a failure at the highest levels of the BBC to challenge payments to senior managers and what appears to have been a culture of cronyism that allowed for the liberal use of licence fee payers' money".

The MP also accused the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, of "sitting on its hands" while the pay-offs were being made.

The report, which is published today, said the committee "remain concerned about the veracity of other parts of the oral evidence we heard".

Ms Adams has already admitted making a mistake in her evidence.

She initially told MPs she had not seen a note detailing plans for pay-offs to Mr Byford and marketing boss Sharon Baylay - but now admits she helped write it.

A BBC spokesman said: "One of Tony Hall's first acts on his appointment was to cap payments at 150,000 - the committee welcomed his decision."

Responding to the criticisms in the report about the corporation's governance, he said: "There needs to be absolute clarity over the responsibilities of the Trust and the BBC executive and we have already acted and announced a range of changes to deliver that."

A BBC Trust spokesman said the PAC's work had "helped inform" the corporation's plan to simplify the way it was run which were announced last week.

She said: "We greatly regret that licence fee payers were let down by this episode. They are entitled to expect that their money is spent wisely.

"Since 2009, the trust has worked successfully with the executive to drive down senior manager pay; and we support Tony Hall's speedy action to impose a cap on severance payments in the future."

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