Nationalised banks and BBC must reveal top salaries

Watchdog's ruling means salaries of high-profile BBC presenters must be disclosed

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Monday 23 February 2009 02:21 GMT

Highly paid executives and presenters working for the BBC, and bosses of the newly nationalised banks, must disclose details of salaries and bonuses, the information watchdog says today.

The new rules published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will throw light on the pay packets of senior staff employed by a range of public bodies in receipt of subsidies.

Scandals involving the broadcaster Jonathan Ross and the former Haringey children’s services boss, Sharon Shoesmith, have brought the issue of accountability and pay into the spotlight.

It took repeated requests to the BBC for it to reveal that Mr Ross was paid £6m a year, while it emerged during the investigation into the death of Baby P that Ms Shoesmith was on a salary of £110,000.

A separate inquiry has uncovered the cost to the taxpayer of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith’s use of the MPs’ second home allowances scheme. Under the terms of the ICO guidance, “When should salaries be disclosed?”, details of wages, bonuses and performance-related pay should be published to the nearest £5,000 when there is legitimate public interest.

The guidance is expected to also affect executives working for Northern Rock and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which will no longer be able to keep details about their pay secret.

The spiralling salaries of BBC stars such as Chris Moyles, Chris Evans and Sir Terry Wogan have come under scrutiny of late. Despite some pay deals being public knowledge, the BBC refuses to disclose other presenters’ salaries. Critics, however, want more transparency for licence-fee payers.

Commenting on a recent National Audit Office report, the MP Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The BBC must account for why it spends much more than its commercial rivals on breakfast and drive-time shows … This is primarily down to presenters’ remuneration.”

Gerrard Tracey, the Assistant Commissioner at the ICO, said there was a legitimate public interest in knowing how public money was spent and how public sector salaries compared with those in other areas. Organisations could best meet this public interest by routinely disclosing senior salary scales.

“Those who are paid from the public purse should expect information on their salaries to be made public,” she said.

The ICO guidance includes information to help authorities decide whether exact salaries should be disclosed.

A leaked report yesterday revealed how MEPs can become millionaires from parliamentary allowances and expenses in one term. The internal audit of MEP expenses, kept secret when delivered last year, discloses the “corruption, dodgy dealing and poor financial controls” in the European Parliament.

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