BBC outlines cash incentives for staff moving to Salford

The BBC has released further details under the Freedom of Information Act of the relocation package available to journalists moving to Salford.

BBC staff moving to the corporation’s new base in the MediaCity on the outskirts of Manchester will be eligible for up to £3,000 to pay for new carpets and curtains.

And BBC employees in London with houses to sell will also benefit from a guaranteed house purchase scheme, under relocation terms for those prepared to head north.

The payments for curtains and carpets, still subject to Inland Revenue approval, will be available to any of the 1,630 BBC staff on contracts who are selling up to shift to MediaCity in Salford

It is one payment among a package of incentives, paid for out of the licence fee, to entice staff to move out of London.

The BBC said it was offering a “comprehensive package of financial and practical support”.

But the TaxPayers’ Alliance described the package as “a slap in the face to the ordinary taxpayer forced to subsidise such generosity when they are facing the consequences of hard economic times”.

The BBC is moving five departments – sport, children’s, Radio 5 Live, learning and parts of the future media and technology department to MediaCity, currently being built at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester.

All staff must make a decision whether to move or not by 30 September, with most relocating between April and December 2011.

Details of the relocation payments were released after an application by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act, made law by the Labour government in 2000.

Financial help

The package includes the BBC employing a specialist relocation company, Cartus, with the guaranteed house purchase scheme (GHPS) including payment of solicitors’ fees, survey fees and stamp duty.

Also reclaimable will be payments for Home Information Packs, search fees, building society charges and mortgage arrangement fees.

Payments of £350 per trip to travel to Manchester for house-hunting or family visits are also reclaimable.

Removal costs will be paid, and the BBC is also offering a “full packing and unpacking service”. Any storage costs will be paid for up to three months.

Other benefits include help to get spouses or partners jobs in the area and specialist help with schooling for children.

Staff who qualify and do move will also get another £5,000 “relocation payment” on top for any “additional costs”, the BBC said.

Anyone on continuing contracts or fixed term contracts with at least two years to run will qualify for the relocation package.

The BBC says it expects the guaranteed house purchase scheme will only apply to a “minority” of staff moving north, but the exact numbers are not yet known.

Some staff on short-term contracts, or who do not own a house, will not benefit from the scheme.

Staff who do not qualify will get a maximum of £8,000 for the move.

But anyone currently receiving thousands of pounds in London Weighting will be allowed to keep the payments despite moving outside the capital.

The GHPS scheme is for BBC employees who are selling a house in Greater London to “ease the problems and stresses” of moving home, the BBC has told staff.

Under the scheme Cartus will pay sellers up to 95 per cent of the market price of the property based on surveyors’ valuations.

When the property is resold, the BBC will incur any loss on the sale price.

In the event of a gain the seller will receive up to 100 per cent of the market value. Anything above that goes back to the BBC to offset costs.

Exact details of the contract between Cartus and the BBC has been withheld by the broadcaster, citing commercial reasons.

‘Committed’

The BBC has told the Government it is committed to the move North as it “addresses concerns that the organisation is not fully representative of the peoples of the UK”.

Matthew Sinclair, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Between maintaining a London Weighting for staff no longer in London, providing handsome payments to cover every possible moving expense and guaranteeing staff against falls in the value of London homes these payments are a slap in the face to the ordinary taxpayer forced to subsidise such generosity when they are facing the consequences of hard economic times.

“The BBC needs to realise that providing this kind of expensive subsidy to staff at the taxpayers’ expense isn’t acceptable.”

But a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC is fully aware of the current harsh financial climate, particularly in relation to house prices, and is very conscious of the need to demonstrate value for money in any scheme to licence payers.

“Like all responsible employers, we will provide support to staff which is both fair but also affordable.”

Exemptions

A number of financial details requested were withheld under exemptions from the FOI application as the BBC said disclosure would “prejudice” their commercial interests.

The BBC is understood to be trying to renegotiate some of the terms it offered staff to leave London because of the economic downturn.

The corporation told union negotiators four years ago that staff agreeing to move North would be able to sell their houses to the company for 95 per cent of the market value.

It is understood that the BBC is now trying to reduce the figure to 85 per cent, making a move less attractive for staff.

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting workers’ union Bectu, defended the original relocation package, saying that in many cases staff wanted to work in London.

“It is right that they have a reasonable relocation package because some will be worse off anyway, especially if their partners have to give up their job to move.

“If the BBC doesn’t make the offer attractive enough they will have to make workers redundant.”

A BBC spokesman added: “A review of the assistance available, in light of the current difficult economic climate, is currently being undertaken with a view to announcing any necessary revisions to the relocation package in the coming weeks. This is important because some staff will shortly be making decisions about the move.

“The BBC’s move to Salford will provide a huge boost to the creative economies of the North and any assistance for staff must be affordable and deliver value for money.”

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