BBC staff facing packed lunches, sobriety and second-class train travel under a new expenses scheme proposal

BBC staff are facing the prospect of packed lunches, sobriety and second-class train travel under a new expenses policy proposal.

Anne Bulford, the corporation's managing director of finance and operations, set out the new rules as part of a plan to save £50m.

The proposed expenses policy, which is subject to consultation, will apply to all staff – though not freelances – except where it contradicts contractual entitlements. The BBC press office was not able to tell Press Gazette how many staff have these entitlements.

The policy document proposes an end to first-class train travel, limits on business class air travel, a new 25-mile cap on taxi journeys and no taxis in central London. It also suggests an end to lunch expenses in the UK and "subsitence alcohol claims".

Bulford also revealed, in an email to staff yesterday, plans to reduce the number of job titles at the BBC.

She said: "In early July Tony Hall announced his intention to simplify the BBC with the aim of reducing complexity and making sure that we are fit for the future.

"We told you about a £150m budget shortfall in this Charter period as a result of lower than predicted licence fee income. We also told you we would start work over the summer to address £50m of this from areas that should not affect content or services for audiences. 

"These areas are merging divisions; reducing layers and reviewing senior management; reviewing professional and support areas; and simplifying and standardising policies and processes.

The BBC’s Professional Service Review was set up in July to “determine the services, structures and levels of resource in each area with the aim of making things simpler, and if sensible, to apply a standardised ‘One BBC’ approach”, she explained.

“The review has also highlighted that we have too many job titles, so starting with our professional and support area we are going to develop a single Career Path Framework. This will streamline job titles and clarify possible career paths.”

Bulford also wrote of the importance of having “manageable team sizes” and “no more than seven layers from the top to the bottom of the organisation”. She said:  “We asked all divisions to look at clarity of the team manager role, realistic team sizes, and to reduce the numbers of senior roles wherever possible. We will now start talking to impacted managers on a case by case basis.”

On expenses, Bulford wrote:  “Against the backdrop of standardisation and the need to save money, we believe it is right that we revisit our UK expenses policy to iron out local differences and to make some changes to ensure that it is comparable to other organisations.”

Under the expenses proposal, staff would, where possible, use “communications tools such as Lync and video conference facilities… as an alternative to travelling for smaller meetings”.

It is also proposed that “first class train travel will no longer be permitted”, although “special consideration will still be given for sleeper carriage arrangements”.

On mileage the proposal said: “At the moment we have staff claiming at different rates and so we plan to discuss how best to achieve consistency across the BBC… We are not proposing changing the rates for employees who receive a car allowance.”

On taxis, the proposal said: “Staff should use public transport wherever possible.”

The BBC has also proposed “that the current taxi journey cap will be reduced from 40 to 25 miles”. It said: “Employees can still book cars for journeys longer than 25 miles but the cost of any additional miles will be deducted from their salary at the appropriate rate (currently £1.60 per mile or part thereof).”

It added: “We’re proposing that no taxis, minicabs or cars can be booked or claimed for in London Zones 1-3. The only exceptions would be news deployment, moving heavy kit and medical needs.”

On travelling between Broadcasting House, in the W1 area, and Wood Lane buildings, W12, the proposal said: “When travelling on business between W1 and W12, employees should use the BBC-provided shuttle buses. When buses aren’t available, you’ll need to use the Tube. You can only claim for Tube journeys when you incur a genuine additional cost to your normal daily travel costs and you will need to show appropriate proof in the claim.”

The proposals suggested that air travel lasting less than six hours should be booked as economy and flights lasting more than six hours can be booked as premium economy.

Business class tickets for air travel could only be booked when the flights last more than eight hours overnight and “there is a requirement to work immediately on arrival at the destination”.

“Exceptional upgrades” can be approved by the finance director for medical reasons, when it is more cost effective due to baggage charges/allowances or “when a short notice emergency deployment is required and there are no longer any seats in economy available”.

The BBC is also proposing that “lunch expenses in the UK can no longer be claimed” and “subsistence alcohol claims will not be permitted in the UK or if you are overseas”.

The document said: “If an employee is scheduled to work a shift of eleven hours or more away from a BBC base, they will be able to claim a single meal.”

Under meal allowances, it added: “If an employee is staying overnight, they can claim for a dinner allowance at £16.

“If you are staying overnight, you can also claim up £6 breakfast allowance if your hotel is room only.”

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