Wales

BBC £25m pay-offs: 'One of worst examples of bad behaviour'

  • 14 July 2013
  • From the section Wales
New Broadcasting House
Image caption The National Audit Office said the scale of payments to senior managers risked public trust

The £25m in severance payments made to senior BBC executives is "one of the worst examples of bad behaviour" from a publicly-funded body, says a Welsh MP.

Conservative MP for Aberconwy Guto Bebb is on the committee of MPs at Westminster which questioned BBC leaders over the payments last week.

He said the issue raised huge questions about the corporation's governance.

BBC director general Tony Hall has admitted "the BBC lost its way on payments in recent years".

Mr Hall said in a statement last week the payments "were from another era and we are putting a stop to them."

The BBC was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) earlier this month for paying out £25m in severance to 150 senior BBC managers, and risking "public trust".

Following the report, the Public Accounts Committee of MPs questioned BBC executives last week.

Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust which is the governing body of the BBC, told the committee he had been "shocked and dismayed" by the £25m pay-offs.

He said that if former BBC director general Mark Thompson was called before MPs, he would be as interested as they were as to why he did not know.

But Mr Thompson later said the BBC Trust knew about £949,000 in severance pay to his deputy Mark Byford. He said the Trust had been told "in writing, as well as orally".

Mr Bebb, who said he was a "strong supporter" of the corporation, told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme the behaviour of BBC executives had raised "huge concerns about the culture that existed within the headquarters of the organisation".

He also said the claims and subsequent challenges by Mr Thompson had raised huge questions about the governance of the BBC.

The MP said he believed a culture of cronyism existed in parts of the public sector which had come from "the excesses of the private sector throughout a period when we thought we had an economy which had banished bust".

Image caption Guto Bebb MP said there was a culture of cronyism in parts of the public sector

"I think there was a feeling in both the public and private sectors that there was no end to this money tree that would be created," Mr Bebb said.

He said the fact that a Welsh council chief executive could be paid £195,000 illustrated there was a cultural problem.

But he said the fact that public money was being used "to get rid of a problem" was even worse.

"And I think what appears to be happening within the BBC... was that decisions were being made in order to rationalise and try and reduce costs," he said.

"But that was done through allowing individuals who were extremely well paid to walk away with financial settlements which would be beyond the comprehension of most ordinary people."

In a statement issued last week Mr Hall said the level of some of the payments was wrong.

"The BBC was trying to get its senior management headcount down - and it succeeded, reducing it from 640 to 445," he said.

"As the NAO acknowledges, we have saved £10m over the period studied in the report and will keep on making savings every year.

"But we have to accept that we achieved our objectives in the wrong way.

"I have already said that we will be capping severance payments at £150,000 and we have now begun to improve our processes."

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