BBC chiefs claimed for champagne and jewels on expenses
Corporation releases documents revealing luxury gifts handed out by bosses
Saturday 18 July 2009
Silver bracelets, luxury soap, wedding presents and cashmere socks were just some of the gifts BBC executives have charged to taxpayers over the past three years, according to the latest expense sheets released by the organisation.
Under pressure from campaigners the Corporation has begun releasing details of executives' pay and expenses. Last month it was revealed that the BBC's board of executives had claimed £363,000 over the past five years, including more than £2,200 to fly the director general Mark Thompson back from a family holiday to deal with the "Sachsgate" scandal.
In the latest round of disclosures the BBC yesterday released expense claims for 30 of its top executives including the heads of all the major channels and radio stations.
Some of the stranger claims made over the past three years have come from Jay Hunt, the controller of BBC 1, who bought a series of gifts on expenses including a wedding present. According to the expense sheets released yesterday, the BBC 1 controller spent £59.95 on a "biscuit jar" as a wedding present, £48.95 on a pair of cashmere socks as a "gift for a leading supplier" and £94.60 for a "silver bangle with charm". She also spent more than £800 on 14 Molton Brown gift sets to give away as Christmas presents to business associates.
Another executive, meanwhile, spent almost £3,000 on flowers. Jane Tranter, who at the time was head of fiction at the BBC, charged the taxpayer £2,756.41 for flowers which she sent to 64 people between 2006 and 2008. A note states that they were purchased "to mark notable achievements in public service broadcasting across Drama, Film and Comedy".
The details released yesterday also provided an insight into the often hefty entertainment bills of some of the BBC's top executives. The highest single expense claim for entertaining came from Balraj Samra, the BBC's director of vision operations, who spent £2,875 in November 2006 on a meal "following negotiation Camelot/Lottery". Six months earlier Mr Samra, who earns between £280,000 and £310,000 according to salary details released by the BBC last month, also put in a claim for £827.02 for a dinner with Labour MP Tessa Jowell when she was Secretary of State for Culture. In addition, he claimed £20 for an eye test.
Andy Parfitt, the head of Radio 1, regularly put in expense claims for dinners which cost fee-payers more than £1,000. Known as "Parf Daddy" to the stations DJs, the Radio 1 controller held regular meetings with the station's top talent to "communicate strategy". Meanwhile Alan Yentob, the Corporation's creative director, charged fee payers £1,579.63 for an "executive Christmas dinner". A single taxi journey taken by Mr Parfitt in March 2008, meanwhile, cost fee payers £632.
Claims for wine and champagne also featured in a number of executives' expense claims. Roly Keating, a former BBC 2 controller, claimed for 35 bottles of champagne at an overall cost of more than £1,000.
Matthew Sinclair, research director at the TaxPayers' Alliance, accused the BBC of abusing public trust. "BBC executives appear to expect that their expenses claims should cover private celebrations and presents that do nothing to further the interests of licence fee payers," he said. "Ordinary families shouldn't be forced to subsidise gifts from overpaid BBC executives. The BBC's senior staff aren't accountable to the public for how they spend licence fee payers' money. If they can't be trusted to take that responsibility incredibly seriously there is no way they should keep getting a guaranteed income."
Caroline Thomson, the BBC's chief operating officer, who claimed £5,000 in expenses last year, including £1,300 on taxis, said the BBC was delivering a "step-change" to make the BBC "one of the most transparent and open public service organisations in Britain.
"Today's disclosure of expenses relates to business costs incurred doing the job," she added. "Clearly, as this is about spending public money, we are always careful to spend it wisely. However, like all global media organisations, senior leaders will inevitably incur expenses as part of carrying out their roles."
Aunty's expenses: The spoils of office
Jay Hunt, BBC1 controller
£94.60 silver bangle with charm
£43.45 cashmere and silk jumper
£59.95 biscuit jar wedding gift
£48.95 pair of cashmere socks as "gift for leading supplier"
£800 Molton Brown gift sets
Alan Yentob, BBC creative director
£1,579.63 claim for an "executive Christmas dinner" for "27 people"
£92.99 on "hospitality for Trevor Eve"
£157.73 on "dinner to discuss Nigella Lawson contract/progs"
Balraj Samra, director of vision operations
£827.02 Dinner with Tessa Jowell in May 2006£2,875 dinner following "negotiation Camelot/Lottery deal", November 2006.
£20 eyesight test
Andy Parfitt, BBC Radio 1 controller
£5,498 "communicating the Radio 1 strategy to its specialist presenters".
£49.50 for "catch up" lunch with Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray
£94.50 for "catch up" lunch with Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe £403.50 drinks at Brit Awards in February 2008
£632 taxi For 1Xtra Live Event, in Coventry 22 March 2008
Ben Stephenson, BBC drama chief
£309.50 on eight "Jo Malone candles", gift cards, bags and deliver
£49.50 on "books on TV drama history"
£78 on wine
£201.48 box of champagne
£103.88 on wine
£78.50 to upgrade to a first class train ticket because it was busy
Jane Tranter, BBC's head of fiction, now with BBC Worldwide
£2,756.41 on flowers
£102 on hamper for Bill Nighy
£149.95 on champagne for the cast of Casualty
£55 gift for Billie Piper
£39.90 gift for David Tennant
£1,201 on dinner for Bonekickers
Roly Keating, director of archive content, former controller of BBC 2
£1,000+ on 35 champagne bottles including 3 crates of 6 to give as gifts.
Mark Damazer, BBC Radio 4 controller
£119.53 dinner with a Sony gold-winning Today presenter
£475.03 supper with comedy talent
£510.47 Robert Robinson's 80th birthday
£1,233.20 on 35th birthday of Just A Minute
Bob Shennan, head of Radio 5 Live (now controller of Radio 2)
£10 in February 2007 for a taxi after he "got into the wrong minicab"
Danny Cohen, BBC 3 controller,
£75 on breakfast muffins as a "thank you gift to [a] very hard working production team".
£300 on eight bouquets of flowers
£26.97 to purchase a box set of the first series of Skins – a series he commissioned when he was at E4.
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