The BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) has reduced payroll staff costs and numbers, in particular the cost and size of its senior management, increased the proportion of staff outside London, and created new posts in priority areas, according to the latest report from the National Audit Office (NAO). However, a full assessment of the BBC’s expenditure on its staff needs to include the number and cost of its freelance and agency staff.
In the period the NAO reviewed, the BBC has improved central management oversight and control of staffing, bringing greater consistency and standardisation to its approach.
From 2010-11 to 2015-16, the BBC reduced the cost of its payroll workforce by 6% in real terms and the size of its payroll workforce by 4%. In 2015-16, the BBC employed an average of 18,920 full-time equivalent staff in its public service broadcasting functions, compared to 19,767 in 2010-11. The cost of salaries and wages for payroll staff in these functions fell in real terms by £59 million from £921 million in 2010-11 to £862 million in 2015-16 (in 2015-16 prices). Over this period, the BBC made 3,400 staff redundant at a cost of £190 million.
The NAO finds that the reduction in workforce is smaller than the BBC originally planned because the BBC has offset posts it closed by creating new roles in priority areas. In 2011, the BBC envisaged that it would become a significantly smaller organisation with a net loss of about 2,000 payroll posts over five years. By 2015-16, the workforce had fallen by 847 staff, with reductions beyond this level offset by increases, most notably in digital and technological roles to support services such as the iPlayer and to allow greater personalisation of BBC content.
In the period from 2010-11 to 2015-16, the BBC has not monitored or reported centrally in a consistent way on the number and cost of all types of ‘variable staff’ (freelance and agency workers), meaning it is not possible to assess how its total requirement for people has changed over time. Although variable staff costs have been monitored in divisions, reporting of total numbers and costs was not brought together and tracked centrally by executive management prior to 2015-16. In March 2016 the BBC engaged with approximately 2,500 variable staff on a full-time equivalent basis. However, the BBC cannot say on a like-for-like basis whether it currently makes use of more or fewer variable staff than in previous years.
According to the NAO report, the BBC has successfully reduced the overall number and cost of its senior managers, but has not met two related senior management commitments. Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, it succeeded in reducing the senior management pay bill by £17.1 million (27%) from £64.1 million to £47 million. However, the number of senior managers earning more than £150,000 was higher in March 2016 (98) than in January 2012 (89), despite a commitment to reduce the number by 20%. Furthermore, the BBC had not reduced the proportion of senior managers to 1% of the workforce by 2015 as intended – in December 2016, senior managers represented 1.6% of the workforce.
The BBC has simplified and standardised its organisation design, including by reducing layers of management. The broadcaster, however, faces recruitment and retention problems in areas where it competes for specialist skills.
Amongst the NAO’s recommendations is that the BBC should measure and report on its variable staff on a consistent basis from year to year.