Dyke axes chauffeurs for senior BBC executives

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Chauffeur-driven cars for senior BBC executives are to go in a management restructuring announced yesterday by the director general, Greg Dyke. The shake-up reverses many ofthe management systems put in place by his predecessor, Lord Birt.

Expensive cars and drivers for top BBC administrators were seen as symbolic of the previous regime, which was accused of rewarding managers in favour of programme-makers.

The axed perks form part of an enormous cost-cutting programme that is expected to deliver savings of £200m a year for the corporation from next year, helping the BBC achieve a government savings target of £1.2bn over seven years.

"People on the BBC executive don't yet know this, but they won't be getting chauffeured cars," said Mr Dyke, with some of the executive members present and looking slightly glum at the announcement.

He said he wanted to scrap a system that allows some executives to have two company cars, and said the use of taxis by staff will be reduced. Mr Dyke himself brought a six- year-old Jaguar with him from his previous job at Pearson and has a BBC driver.

Mr Dyke said that hundreds of jobs would be scrapped over the coming months in a drive to reduce the duplication of functions. Strategy departments, which have been growing in number throughout the BBC, are to be replaced by one central strategy group. The BBC's many press and public relations departments will also be rationalised.

Mr Dyke said his restructuring should mean that about 85 per cent of BBC money should, within five years, be spent on programmes rather than the current 76 per cent. He said the change was essential, as the BBC was in a position of financial decline within the British broadcasting market.

He said he would aim to restructure the BBC, putting programme-makers at the centre of the corporation and cutting out a layer of management introduced by Lord Birt. His controversial broadcast and production departments would scrapped in many areas including sports, children's and education programming.

Mr Dyke also announced the scrapping of the BBC's corporate centre and policy and planning unit, which staff dubbed the Birt "thought police". He also said the cumbersome performance review process introduced by Lord Birt would be cut "drastically".

The new structure is "flatter, more inclusive, and will result in more collaboration and less internal competition; more leadership and less management," Mr Dyke said. Last week, he said that the BBC was "massively over-managed and under-led", a comment that was seen as a savage attack on Lord Birt's regime.

Mr Dyke also plans to put more money into in-house programme production. Lord Birt presided over the lossof many talented BBCprogramme-makers who set up their own independent companies, sometimes with guarantees of many years' work from the BBC. "People have walked out of here with guaranteed production for the next few years," Mr Dyke told staff. "Those days are over."