The BBC has been accused of exaggerating the extent of its “bonfire” of senior executives by creating a secret tier of highly paid employees just below management level.
The “sleight of hand” has allowed the corporation to claim that it is slashing its managerial pay bill, while at the same time paying inflated wages to a growing group of staff just below the management threshold.
During the last four years the number of BBC staff classified at Band 11 – the the highest grade below management level – has steadily grown from 638 to 734, an increase of 15 per cent.
Freedom of Information requests revealed that more than 60 per cent of staff in Band 11 are being paid an above-the-ceiling figure for that tier, with average salaries of £78,214.
The number of Band 11 staff paid above the ceiling for their grade is 456 out of 734. The pay scale for Band 11 should range from £44,327 to £70,167 (outside London) or £73,883 (inside London). The total amount paid to staff in Band 11 rose from £54.43m in the year to March 2010 to £65.48m in the year to March 2013, more than 20 per cent.
The growth in this senior tier has come despite the fact that the BBC has introduced cuts across the organisation in response to the freezing of the licence fee. Rank-and-file BBC staff are unhappy at what is seen as a bulging tier of highly-paid senior colleagues.
“There are often more people in the newsroom issuing instructions than there are people to carry them out,” said one BBC journalist.
Helen Goodman, the shadow media minister, said: “It’s really important that the BBC’s systems are transparent and what people want is more resources going into programme making and less into bureaucracy.”
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: “It is clear that at the same time as publicly congratulating themselves on their efforts to slim down the managerial rump at the BBC, behind the scenes they’ve simply displaced individuals into a non-management tier, allowing them to keep their generous salary. It’s managerial sleight of hand.”
The BBC has said it paid £50.8m in salary to 412 senior managers, which represented a 3.5 per cent reduction between August 2012 and August 2013.
A BBC spokesman said: “The total reduction of BBC staff cannot be judged through the prism of a single, prominently specialist grade at the BBC when the reality is that between March 2010 and March 2013 BBC headcount was reduced by over 1,400 and the pay bill by close to £58m.”
He added: “There are audit measures in place to stop us moving individuals from Senior Manager (SM) grades to Grade 11 and counting this as SM reductions.” He made clear that these audits prevent the corporation claiming any such changes as cuts to the senior management.
The spokesman continued: “The individuals in Grade 11 are predominantly senior specialists who possess a skillset that commands a higher market premium, or in some cases, senior contributors to BBC content. These individuals enable the BBC to deliver high quality content for audiences but they are not senior managers who lead within the BBC. “