Yentob claimed £1,600 for 'executive dinner'

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The Independent Online

The latest round of BBC expenses, released today, showed that the corporation's creative director Alan Yentob charged the licence fee payer nearly £1,600 for an "executive Christmas dinner".

Details of BBC executives and top earners' expenses were disclosed last month, and showed that the board claimed a total of £350,000, including more than £2,000 to fly director general Mark Thompson's family home from holiday in the wake of the Andrew Sachs row.

Today's release showed heads of radio and TV stations and senior corporation management figures used public money to pay for flowers, champagne, hampers for stars and "thank you" lunches and dinners.

Ben Stephenson, the BBC's head of drama commissioning, spent £309 on eight candles by designer Jo Malone as gifts recognising "outstanding" contributions to BBC drama.

Mr Yentob, who earns between £310,000 and £340,000, also claimed £160 for a dinner to discuss Nigella Lawson's contract, £60 on "internal hospitality" for a meeting to discuss his own career, and even £10 for a new mobile phone cover.

Jane Tranter, the former controller of BBC Vision and BBC Fiction, who has now left the corporation, charged the licence fee payer more than £3,000 for flowers over three years.

She also claimed nearly £150 "to discuss Doctor Who publicity", another £240 for champagne to celebrate a Doctor Who win at the Baftas and a further £170 "for Doctor Who concert".

More than £600 went on drinks at a Royal Television Society event, £206 went on cakes for an independent production company, £102 on a hamper for the actor Bill Nighy and £215 on flowers for actors who did not even work for the BBC.

Some of Ms Tranter's claims were rather less detailed: she claimed £170 "to discuss new projects", £150 "re clients and future projects", £300 "to discuss future collaborations", another £248 "re future collaborations", £265 "re CHINA", and more than £3,000 for an "agents event".

Caroline Thomson, the BBC's chief operating officer, who earns £328,000 a year and claimed nearly £5,000 in expenses last year, including £1,300 on taxis, said the release of the figures showed the BBC was delivering a "step-change" in the way it disclosed information.

"Today's disclosure of expenses relates to business costs incurred doing the job," she said.

"Clearly as this is about spending the 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.

"For example, without overseas travel we couldn't secure millions of pounds of new investment in co-production and exports that can be ploughed back into programming to benefit licence fee payers."

Later in the year the corporation would begin routinely publishing large amounts of information on the pay and expenses of top executives, as well as details of the money paid to leading presenters and artists, she said.

She added: "We are delivering a step-change in the information we disclose to the public and we believe this will make us one of the most transparent and open public service organisations in Britain."

Jay Hunt, the controller of BBC One, claimed more than £900 for luxury toiletries over the three year period covered by the expenses, including £666 for 14 Molton Brown gift sets.

He claimed nearly £50 for two pairs of cashmere socks as a "gift for a leading supplier" and just under £100 for a "silver bangle with charm" in October 2006.