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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Managing the BBC’s workforce

The BBC 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).

In the period the NAO reviewed, the BBC improved central management oversight and control of staffing, bringing greater consistency and standardisation to its approach. From 2010 to 2016, 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, the BBC employed an average of 18,920 full-time equivalent staff in its public service broadcasting functions, compared to 19,767 in 2010. The cost of salaries and wages for payroll staff in these functions fell in real terms by £59 million from £921 million in FY 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 found that the reduction in workforce was smaller than the BBC originally planned because the Corporation had offset posts it closed by creating new roles in priority areas. In 2011, the BBC had envisaged that it would become a significantly smaller organisation with a net loss of about 2,000 payroll posts over five years. By 2016, 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. But the Corporation did not monitor or report centrally in a consistent way on the number and cost of all types of ‘variable staff’ (freelance and agency workers), meaning that it was not possible for the NAO to assess how its total requirement for people has changed over time. In March 2016, the BBC engaged approximately 2,500 variable staff on a full-time equivalent basis. However, the NAO report notes, the BBC could not say on a like-for-like basis whether it was making use of more or fewer variable staff than in previous years.

According to the NAO, the BBC successfully reduced the overall number and cost of its senior managers but failed to meet two related senior management commitments. It succeeded in reducing the senior management pay bill by £17.1 million (27%) from £64.1 million to £47 million, but 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 did not reduce the proportion of senior managers to 1% of the workforce by 2015 as intended, and in December 2016, senior managers represented 1.6% of the workforce.

The BBC still faces recruitment and retention problems in areas where it competes for specialist skills, the NAO concluded. Amongst the NAO’s recommendations are that the Corporation should measure and report on its variable staff on a consistent basis from year to year. Amyas Morse, Head of the National Audit Office, says: “The BBC’s approach to managing its workforce shows definite progress.

“The BBC has improved its oversight of staff, and achieved better value for money than in the past. The scale of the BBC’s efficiency agenda in the coming years is considerable, and the BBC will need to monitor workforce changes carefully to build on the recent progress it has made.”

[infobox title=’Key facts’]18,920 – average full-time equivalent payroll staff in the BBC’s public service broadcasting functions in 2015-16

£862m – expenditure on salaries and wages for the BBC’s  public service broadcasting payroll staff in 2015-16

319 – senior managers in the BBC as at December 2016, compared to 540 in 2010-11

4% – net reduction in the number of BBC payroll staff working in public service broadcasting between 2010-11 and 2015-16

6% – net real-terms reduction in the cost of salaries and wages for the BBC’s public service broadcasting payroll staff between 2010-11 and 2015-16

3,400 – BBC staff made redundant between 2010-11 and 2015-16

53% – BBC staff based outside London in December 2016, against a target of at least 50%

1.6% – BBC staff who were senior managers in December 2016, compared with an intention to reach 1% by 2015

98 – senior managers earning more than £150,000 in March 2016, compared with 89 in January 2012

2,500 – full-time equivalent freelance and agency workers working with the BBC, in addition to payroll staff, in March 2016[/infobox]