40 senior BBC roles will require government approval in future

LONDON - About 40 BBC staff earning more than £150,000 will be forced to justify their salaries as part of a new government initiative to save £1.3bn over the next four years, announced today.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s pre-Budget report, Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined the plan for public spending cuts and senior appointment approvals at the Royal Society in London.

He said ministers had identified £3bn in additional efficiency savings since the Budget in April, to equate to £12bn in total savings, of which £1.3bn over four years would be achieved by streamlining.

Senior BBC executives, along with other public sector workers including NHS bosses, local government chiefs, and COI’s chief executive Mark Lund, will be asked to explain why they are worth so much.

In future, new appointments for jobs worth £150,000 or more will have to be approved by the chief secretary to the Treasury.

They will also see their names and salaries published, as will everyone earning a bonus of £50,000 or more a year.

Among the BBC jobs due to come under scrutiny is that of director-general Mark Thompson, who earned £834,000 last year.

Other top earners include Caroline Thomson, the chief operating officer, who received £413,000; Mark Byford, deputy director general, who received £485,000; and Jana Bennett, head of BBC Vision, who received £515,000.

However, in October, the BBC Trust had already instructed Thompson to cut the salaries of management by 25% over the next three and a half years and to reduce the number of senior managers by 18% by July 2013.

At the time of going to press, a BBC spokesman said the corporation was still trying to "coordinate a line" by way of response.

In the same address today, the Prime Minister also announced plans to cut government marketing spend by 25%, a move that has led the COI to state: "We are already working hard internally - and with the Cabinet Office - to develop the best tools and approaches to drive both efficiency and effectiveness, and to streamline the procurement of communication and marketing services."

The government, through the COI, was the UK’s biggest advertiser last year, responsible for £250m worth of media spend.

This year, it is currently conducting the country's largest media buying review as it looks to consolidate its business into one agency consortium.

Today's initiatives are due to be announced on Wednesday (9 December) in Chancellor Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report but will not take affect until after, and if, Labour wins the next General Election.

Darling is expected to confirm annual borrowing in the UK has topped £175bn, before pledging to halve the debt by 2014.

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