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Patten hopes for pay-offs 'gesture'

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said he hoped senior staff who received hefty pay-offs they were not entitled to would "make a gesture" and pay some money back.

But he said there would be no legal effort to force them to as more evidence emerged of how the corporation doled out money to its top executives.

Director-general Tony Hall admitted the corporation had "lost the plot" over pay and remuneration as BBC bosses faced a parliamentary committee to discuss a National Audit Office (NAO) report that showed some departing staff had been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds more than they were contractually owed.

Lord Patten said he had been shocked by the report and suggested former director-general Mark Thompson should be called to give evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, saying: "If you call a previous director-general of the BBC I will be as interested as you are why we didn't know."

In a three-year period up to last December, the BBC spent £25 million on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff, according to the NAO report, and since 2005 it has made payments totalling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

In almost a quarter of the individual cases reviewed by the NAO, the BBC paid out more than the staff were entitled to under their contracts.

The report also highlighted the case of former BBC2 controller Roly Keating, who was given a £375,000 pay-off but returned the money after learning it had not been properly authorised. Lord Patten said he was "very pleased" Mr Keating had paid the money back and said he hoped others might volunteer to follow his example.

He said: "What I'm certainly not going to do is risk asking for money back, lose in court, and fetch up paying more money from the licence fee payer than would have been the case otherwise".

He added: "I think other people with an appropriate sense of seemliness would see whether they should make a gesture similar to Roly Keating."

BBC Trust member Anthony Fry said some executives were "out to lunch" in regard to how much they expected senior staff to be paid, and some people had got "unreasonable" salaries and pay-offs. But he said members of the trust, which is the governing body of the BBC, were not always included in decision making and there were times when "people like me were asked in not particularly pleasant words to get back into our box" if they questioned decisions.


From Belfast Telegraph