BBC Breakfast's new dawn is overshadowed by £850,000 bill for getting staff to Salford
Broadcasting begins, but corporation cannot escape claims of wastefulness
There was a familiar computer-generated dawn skyline behind the well-known presenters who perched with trademark cheer on a new, trademark-red settee. Yet while the first BBC Breakfast broadcast from the corporation's £1bn new Salford HQ emphasised continuity rather than change, the corporation found itself fending off the same old accusations of wastefulness.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that the BBC spent nearly £850,000 on travel to Salford and Manchester since moving into its £1bn MediaCity HQ eight months ago. The figure brings the total spent ferrying staff between London and the North-west to almost £2m since 2010. Contained in the most recent figures were £642,706 spent on train fares, £160,373 on taxis and £45,157 on flights. More than 50 cab journeys cost over £100 and one cost £653. A flight from Dubai set licence payers back £1,502.
A BBC spokeswoman said "some element of travel was inevitable" for a major broadcaster but added that some of the costs included multiple fares.
One London-Manchester rail journey, for example, was billed at £785 although others appeared to have been booked in advance and were considerably cheaper. In a statement the corporation said: "We are mindful that we spend public money and we work hard to keep this expenditure to a minimum."
The National Audit Office is set to review the cost-effectiveness of the move later this year. Just under half of BBC Breakfast staff have relocated to Salford, bringing the number of employees there to 2,200. The Quays base has been criticised as a waste of money and lambasted for failing to generate much-needed local jobs.
There have also been suggestions that stars may be reticent to travel beyond the capital to take their place on the sofa. Yesterday the show included the singer Connie Fisher, the Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson and the American "real-life horse whisperer" Buck Brannaman.
Some senior staff, including the Breakfast presenter Sian Williams and the sports presenter Chris Hollins, declined to make the migration north. Ms Williams was replaced by the weekend stand-in Susanna Reid.
The BBC has refused to confirm whether presenters will commute from London or relocate to the North-west. BBC North's director, Peter Salmon, considered a contender to replace Mark Thompson as the next director general, has also come under fire for failing to make the move permanently.
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