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BBC Pay-Off Packages To Be Probed By NAO

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GEORGE ENTWISTLE
The public spending watchdog is to investigate BBC severance packages after it emerged almost 200 senior managers received pay-offs of more than £100,000 each in the past three years. | PA

The public spending watchdog is to investigate BBC severance packages after it emerged almost 200 senior managers received pay-offs of more than £100,000 each in the past three years.

The National Audit Office (NAO) will examine the situation after MPs said pay-offs for senior BBC figures had been "excessively generous".

The investigation was sparked after George Entwistle, the former director general, stood down over the Jimmy Savile scandal with a £450,000 pay-off - double the amount he was entitled to.

The probe also comes after parliament's Public Accounts Committee criticised the BBC's use of licence fee payers' money as "cavalier" and "out of line with public expectations".

The committee's chairman, Margaret Hodge, hit out after hearing that 10 other leading figures at the BBC received severance packages in the past two years which together amounted to £4 million.

The largest was the former deputy director general Mark Byford, who was given £949,000.

Today an NAO spokesman said the decision to look at BBC severance packages was taken in the light of Mr Entwistle's departure.

The NAO wrote to the BBC asking if it should specifically examine Mr Entwistle's pay-off and report to the Public Accounts Committee before it deliberated recently.

But the corporation asked it to investigate severance packages as part of the NAO's wider 2013 programme of studies, as the NAO - which scrutinises public spending on behalf of parliament - does not have the power to carry out stand-alone "incident" studies.

The spokesman said: "We have placed this in our wider 2013 studies."

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws show that between 2010 and 2011 the cost of redundancy payments at the corporation more than doubled to £58m.

A total of 14 executives received pay-offs of more than £300,000 each, worth a total of £6m, while 194 executives got £100,000 each.
Caroline Thomson, the former chief operating officer at the BBC, was given £670,000 when she left the corporation earlier this year.

The Telegraph also reported that an unnamed finance officer was given a £420,000 payoff, while Sharon Baylay, the director of marketing, was given a £392,000 payoff.

In 2010, £27m was spent on redundancy payments for 481 staff and £58m in 2011 on 1,281 redundancy payments, the newspaper reported.

The average payout for an executive made redundant at the BBC is £51,000.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "Staff who are made redundant receive what they are entitled to in their contract. While redundancies involve costs in the short term in the long-term they represent significant savings. We offer our full co-operation with the National Audit Office."

A spokesman for the BBC Trust added: "The chairman previously suggested that it would be useful for the NAO to look not just at the package George Entwistle received, but at severance pay in the BBC more widely.

"We have received their schedule of work for 2013 and we are pleased to see that they will take this approach in a planned review for next year.

"Work will begin on this as soon as possible and we will, as always, ensure the NAO are given full access to all the information they require to carry out this review."