Departing BBC director Lucy Adams using licence fee cash to back fight against journalists' union

Head of human resources turned to lawyers over 'highly defamatory' claims of 'dirty tricks' operation

Media Editor

The BBC is using the licence fee to pay the legal fees of its controversial and departing £320,000-a-year head of human resources after she instructed lawyers to "take matters further" when a trade union made claims of a "dirty tricks" operation at the broadcaster.

Lucy Adams, who has announced she is leaving the corporation in March to "try something new", was heavily criticised over her role in the BBC executive pay scandal. Stewart Jackson MP, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the parliamentary watchdog, said she "presided over" a culture of "corporate fraud and cronyism".

But the BBC is paying Ms Adams's fees after she turned to lawyers over what she said were "highly defamatory" claims made by the National Union of Journalists, which published a statement in August about an alleged campaign by the BBC human resources department of "hacking staff emails and bullying employees into spying on colleagues".

The NUJ's claims were instantly dismissed by the BBC as "false and without foundation". Ms Adams, who complained of "an unwarranted and very personal attack", instructed libel lawyers.

In response to a Freedom of Information request seen by The Independent, the BBC has confirmed that it is paying Ms Adams's legal bills. "As the NUJ article made serious and damaging allegations against Lucy Adams in her role as the BBC's Director of Human Resources, the BBC has agreed to fund the reasonable costs of Ms Adams seeking external legal advice," it said.

The BBC said Ms Adams could receive further financial support if she decides to proceed further with any legal action. "The funding currently covers the provision of legal advice to Ms Adams prior to the issue of proceedings and her lawyer's costs must be approved by the BBC in advance in incremental caps, with an explanation of the work that needs to be undertaken," it said.

Mr Jackson, a Conservative MP, said that he would be asking senior BBC figures to explain the payments to the PAC. "The BBC seems to have learned nothing from the recent exposure of its largesse and profligacy with license fee-payers cash and culture of corporate greed and cronyism," he said. "If this is the case, I will press for the senior management and Trust Board to return to the Public Accounts Committee and fully account for this inappropriate expenditure."

Paul Farrelly MP, a Labour member of the Culture, Media & Sport committee, said he was surprised that Ms Adams had not already left the BBC. "What is still a mystery is why she's still there, having been part and parcel of a culture that the new Director General said he wants to leave behind. If the BBC is funding a defence to a libel action that is more personal than professional then the BBC Trust must ask searching questions of the BBC executive."

In a damning report into executive pay-offs at the BBC this year, the National Audit Office found that the organisation had made severance payments totalling £60m to 401 senior managers since 2005. Ms Adams, who joined the BBC in 2009, having previously worked at the legal firm Eversheds and the outsourcing giant Serco Group, has told MPs she was under pressure to reduce costs and get executives "out of the door as quickly as possible". She informed Director General Tony Hall this summer that she was leaving in the spring of 2014.

Lord Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, told the PAC that the executive pay-offs at the BBC had caused him "shock and dismay". During her evidence to MPs, Ms Adams was criticised by committee chairman Margaret Hodge who said: "You're developing a habit of changing your evidence."

Lucy Adams in front of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, in September (PA) Lucy Adams in front of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, in September (PA)
The HR director was deeply unpopular among BBC staff and the news of her departure was greeted with cheers in some of the organisation's newsrooms. But Lord Hall said he would be "sorry to see her go".

It is not the first time that the BBC has providing licence fee money to pay for senior executives to defend their personal reputations.

During Nick Pollard's review of the BBC's handling of the Savile scandal, the corporation spent £101,000 of the total £2.4m cost on paying the "legal and related costs" of the under-fire Director of BBC News, Helen Boaden, who was on a salary of £354,000. Pollard criticised Ms Boaden's handling of the scandal. "The division she headed was in virtual meltdown, and I would have expected her to have taken a more active role in resolving things." The review reported that Ms Boaden, now director of BBC Radio, offered to step down over the matter but her resignation was refused by Director General George Entwistle.

When Mr Entwistle quit his job over the Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals, the BBC paid his personal lawyers and public relations advisers as he faced a barrage of criticism over a settlement worth £450,000.  Some £10,000 was paid by the BBC for the legal advice Mr Entwistle received in securing that pay-off. He was paid another £10,000 from the licence fee to cover his "communications costs" during the turbulent period. The broadcaster paid £107,000 for Mr Entwistle's costs during internal inquiries into the scandals. Mr Entwistle's predecessor as DG, Mark Thompson, received £86,000 for legal fees incurred during Pollard's review.

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried