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BBC NI attacked over 'grotesque' £866k pay-off ex-boss

By Adrian Rutherford

The former chair of a powerful Westminster committee has attacked the BBC for its "grotesque squandering" of money, citing an £866,000 pay-off to its former Northern Ireland boss as one example.

Dame Margaret Hodge refers to the case of Pat Loughrey in a new book examining waste in the public sector.

In 2013 he was named as one of several former BBC executives who had departed the organisation with huge pay-offs.

Mr Loughrey received £866,000 - including £300,000 pay in lieu of 12 months' notice - even though he had worked his notice and been paid for it.

Other golden handshakes included a £450,000 pay-off to former director general George Entwistle, who quit after just 54 days in the job in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Ms Hodge, who chaired Westminster's Public Accounts Committee from 2010 to 2015, writes how MPs were "deeply concerned" about a number of cases, including that of Mr Loughrey.

Her book, Called To Account: How Corporate Bad Behaviour And Government Waste Combine To Cost Us Millions, is published this week.

Ms Hodge is particularly critical of Mr Entwistle, but noted that he "was just one of many" receiving massive pay-offs.

She adds: "During the ensuing months, we uncovered a great deal more evidence of the BBC's cavalier attitude to licence-fee payers' money.

"One highly-paid executive after another, it turned out, had left with far more than he or she was entitled to claim."

Ms Hodge concludes: "Without any doubt, there had been grotesque squandering of public money by a public corporation.

"Had this happened in a private company, it might well have been regarded as a breach of the directors' duty to their shareholders."

Mr Loughrey, who is originally from Co Donegal, was a freelance broadcaster for UTV, BBC and RTE before joining the BBC as an education producer in 1984.

He became controller of BBC Northern Ireland 10 years later.

In April 2010, around four months after leaving the BBC, he started a £200,000-a-year job as the taxpayer-funded Warden of Goldsmiths University. A spokesperson for Mr Loughrey said yesterday: "Any payments were made in fulfilment of long-standing contractual agreements and approved at the highest level."

Other pay-offs included nearly £400,000 to Sharon Baylay, the former director of marketing, ecommunications and audience, who was made redundant after only 17 months.

John Smith left his post as chief executive of BBC Worldwide at the age of 55, and immediately started drawing a pension of £212,000 a year.

He had negotiated a £2m pension top-up and £1.6m severance pay.

And Mark Byford, the former deputy director-general, departed with £1m. He received a year's salary as a redundancy payment, £73,000 for leave accumulated before 2004, plus another year's salary in lieu of notice, even though the decision to axe his job had been taken nine months before he left.

A BBC Spokesperson said: “This story was widely covered several years ago when it was examined in depth by the committee and since then we’ve capped severance payments at £150,000.”

The 2013 National Audit Office report found the BBC handed staff £369m over eight years.

Belfast Telegraph

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