According to the Times
The BBC is spending tens of millions of pounds paying staff to leave as reporters take advantage of generous redundancy deals before the government caps payouts. Long-serving BBC employees are entitled to severance packages worth two years’ salary, up to a maximum of £150,000, under a voluntary redundancy programme opened this summer.
Thousands of staff are expected to depart in the cost-cutting drive, as budgets come under pressure from dwindling sales of TV licences and £125 million in coronavirus-related costs.
High-profile staff are among those jumping ship. Ross Hawkins, a political correspondent, said this week that he was leaving after 19 years to join Hawthorn Advisors, the communications consultancy. James Robbins, diplomatic correspondent, who joined the BBC 40 years ago, is leaving and four of BBC Northern Ireland’s best-known journalists, including Mark Devenport, the political editor, have confirmed that they are taking voluntary redundancy. The Belfast Telegraph warned that the broadcaster’s authority in the province risked being diminished.
BBC insiders said that there had been a deluge of applications from staff who believed that this might be their last chance to get a six-figure payout. The government is drawing up plans to cap exit payments from public sector bodies at £95,000. The BBC’s recent annual report said it expected to be affected by the cap.
Even before the latest redundancy round, the national broadcaster’s severance bill had been soaring. It spent £23.3 million on redundancy payments to 331 staff in 2019-20, up from £17.8 million the previous year. The annual total is equivalent to 150,000 TV licences. The average payout was £70,000 but 85 staff received more than £100,000.
The corporation introduced a £150,000 cap in 2013 after a public outcry over excessive settlements, including £1 million to Mark Byford, the former deputy director-general. George Entwistle received £470,000 after resigning as director-general during the Jimmy Savile scandal, having been in the job for only 54 days.
Tim Davie, who took over as director-general last month, has pledged to reduce the BBC’s headcount. He has suggested that the redundancy “churn” would make its news operation more efficient. He told MPs last month: “I do not think we need all the staff we have. What is not sustainable is for us just to keep recruiting”.
At present staff are entitled to one month’s pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 12 months, or 24 months if they joined before 2013.
BBC staff are divided about the exodus. Colleagues described Hawkins as a “gem” who could not be replaced. One source told The Times, however, that the corporation could lose some “dead wood” without a decline in quality.
A BBC spokesman said “This process will help ensure the BBC meets the challenges of a fast-changing media environment within its financial parameters”.