BBC paid ‘excessive’ relocation allowances

The BBC paid up to £150,000 in “excessive” relocation allowances to members of staff as part of the £224m move to a new base in Salford, a powerful committee of MPs has found.

Some of the allowances paid were “hard to justify”, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found, and the BBC Trust acknowledged the deals would “aggravate” licence fee payers.

The committee said most aspects of the move were completed successfully and for £9m under the budget, but raised concerns about the long-term future of the Salford site, which is owned by the Peel Group.

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The broadcaster offered London-based employees relocation deals to move to Salford and spent £24m on moving nearly 900 staff at an average cost of £28,000 per person.

But in 11 cases, the cost of relocating staff exceeded £100,000 per person, with one costing £150,000.

The BBC claimed that these cases reflected the “higher stamp duty and other costs involved in relocating staff who owned high value properties in the South East”.

Some staff who relocated to the MediaCity UK complex received allowances that were exceptions to the BBC’s standard policy, with the reasons often not properly recorded.

The committee’s Labour chairwoman, Margaret Hodge, said: “There were 11 cases where the cost of relocating staff exceeded £100,000 per person, with one costing £150,000. And it is not acceptable that the BBC also failed to make a proper record of the exceptions it made to its allowance policy.”

Some of the BBC’s allowances, such as offering homeowners a guaranteed minimum price for their existing home if they moved, are standard practice for relocation projects.

But the corporation also offered a remote location allowance worth up to £1,900 a month covering the cost of renting property in Salford and travelling to and from London at weekends for two years.

Comment: Page 12.