Belfast Telegraph

BBC NI boss Johnston earning £153k a year claimed almost £13,000 in expenses


By Aaron Tinney

The director of BBC Northern Ireland spent almost £13,000 on luxury hotels, nights out, entertainment, travel and parking expenses in the last year.

Peter Johnston's claims equate to almost £35 a day.

Among them is £11.66 to reprint an aeroplane boarding pass - lodged despite his annual wage topping £153,000.

The 51-year-old is among more than 100 BBC managers on a second 'rich list' of staff at the corporation who are paid more than the Prime Minister.

In the last year, he has spent licence fee payers' cash on travel to London where he has stayed in hotels including the Danubius in Regent's Park.

The executive has previously made news over his lavish spending on expenses, and in 2010 claimed £456.20 for drinks filed under 'staff entertainment' at the Sony Awards at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

The BBC's reluctant release of its list of 96 of its highest paid stars, and the gender pay gap it illustrates between the men and women, has until now drawn the most media attention.

However, the corporation's pay of top executives and their expenses spending is now under the spotlight.

Mr Johnston is paid a BBC salary of £146,000 and his total annual remuneration is listed as £153,800 by the corporation.

Prime Minister Theresa May's yearly wage is £150,402.

Mr Johnston was appointed controller of BBC Northern Ireland in 2006. His total expenses for 2016/17 total £12,774.48.

Many of them have been filed under the vague category of 'Business Entertainment'.

None of his claims list who he entertained in the course of spending almost £13,000 in expenses. He spent almost £100 on 'internal hospitality' at a meeting to 'discuss new projects' according to his list of claims.

And almost £100 was spent at a meeting to 'discuss the Northern Ireland creative sector'.

The outcomes of his meetings are not listed.

Mr Johnston's spending reveals he once charged £11.66 on expenses for the reprinting of one of his boarding passes.

A dinner at the Celtic Media Festival in April 2016 in Dungarvan, Co Waterford cost £226.26.

He has also stayed at hotels including the Malmaison in Leeds, Lawlors in Dungarvan, and the Melia House Hotel, London.

Over the years his other expense claims show he has a fondness for eating in London's Soho.

Flights costing more than £300 have also been charged by Mr Johnston.

He has also been the recipient of hospitality in the last year, having been entertained by the Belfast City Council, a chamber of commerce banquet and by the Irish Football Association, who entertained him at the pre-Euro 2016 friendly between Northern Ireland and Belarus.

He worked at Shell in London after he left university before returning to Northern Ireland to work as a management consultant.

His BBC biography says: "He first developed his interests in the world of broadcasting and media management when he provided consultancy support for several of the local ITV franchise bids and an application for a Channel 5 television licence."

The BBC's Director-General Tony Hall is the corporation's highest-paid executive on £450,000.

Deputy director Anne Bulford, director of BBC content Charlotte Moore, and Human Resources director Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth stand out as three of the biggest-earners, on £435,000, £325,000 and £310,000 a year.

However, most of the other top-paid executives are little-known men each raking in six-figure sums.

Nearly half (48%) of BBC staff are women but they only outnumber men on the lowest rungs of the ladder.

A BBC Spokesperson said: “The BBC has led the way on transparency and has published salaries and expenses of senior managers earning over £150,000 since 2009. As Director of BBC NI, Peter Johnston is required to be attend a range of business-related meetings and events throughout the year. All these work-related expenses are within the BBC’s published policy.”

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