Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

BBC licence millions used to pay off staff

The BBC has splashed out millions of pounds of licence fee payers’ cash on golden goodbyes to staff in Northern Ireland as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

The money was paid out to staff who took redundancies under a “streamlining” operation implemented across the corporation by director general Mark Thompson.

He announced plans to create a “smaller, fitter BBC” in 2007, and under his tenure more than 5,600 jobs have been lost.

Since 2004 some 103 redundancies have been made at BBC Northern Ireland, resulting in an overall payout topping £4m. The BBC said long-term savings would be made from reduced staff costs.

Details of the payoffs were revealed in documents released to the Belfast Telegraph after a Freedom of Information request.

Since June 2004, £4,039,819 has been paid out in redundancies, including £679,574 in the nine months to December 2009.

The BBC declined to reveal the status of employees who have left the organisation or how much any individuals had been paid.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance urged the BBC to be more careful with |licence payers’ cash. Its research director Matthew Sinclair said: “The BBC should do everything they can to keep redundancy payments down.

“Millions of pounds in BBC Northern Ireland alone is a huge amount to pay.

“That will mean being more careful when they sign contracts in the first place and then keeping down any payments beyond the statutory minimum. The licence fee is a big and unwelcome bill for ordinary families and the money shouldn’t be wasted.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “These costs have been incurred as part of BBC Northern Ireland’s longer-term efficiency savings and reflect the significant number of post closures within BBC Northern Ireland as it continues to |restructure the business to deliver value for money for the licence fee payer.”

Aside from the payoffs, BBC Northern Ireland also spent more than £1m on staff bonuses over a three-year period, including £409,350 during 2008/09.

The overall bonus payment of £1,215,288 paid out since April 2006 is equivalent to more than 8,500 licence fees. It includes bonus payments of almost £210,000 made to 15 members of senior management at the corporation’s Belfast headquarters.

It is understood around 400 members of staff at BBC Northern Ireland received a bonus in each of the three years.

The details were released by the BBC in further correspondence following a separate Freedom of Information request.

However, in line with national policy, the BBC refused to disclose details of any bonuses paid to its top on-screen talent.

The BBC said it has frozen bonus payments since the start of 2009. The corporation needs to make major savings and last year it was reported that 30 jobs could be cut in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson said: “We continually review our remuneration strategy to ensure that it is right.”

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