A Freedom of Information request has revealed that more than half the 802 BBC staff in the top pay grade below senior management level are paid in excess of the £77,788 ‘maximum’.
Some BBC insiders believe senior managers are being kept in this lower pay grade (but on higher salaries) to avoid public scrutiny and to create an illusion that senior posts are being cut.
But a BBC spokesperson denied this was the case.
In November 2015 the BBC pledged to cut senior managers and create “fewer layers between the top and bottom of the organisation” to help deliver £150m of annual savings.
There are 13 pay grades within the BBC, from grade 2 to 11 and then SM2 (short for senior management), SM1 and Executive, with this last group comprising about a dozen staff including director general Tony Hall.
A Freedom of Information request prompted the BBC to publish the figures for pay grade 11, revealing that more than half of the 802 staff within it have a salary above the upper salary limit of £77,788 a year, known as “above the roof”.
The average “above the roof” salary for the wage bracket currently stands at £92,239 a year, the FoI response states.
Another request revealed that of the 415 people paid more than the maximum salary, 45 earn more than £100,000 while a number, not disclosed by the BBC, earn more than the Prime Minister’s salary of £143,000. The BBC said this last figure was witheld on privacy grounds.
The BBC claims to publish the salaries of all senior managers earning more than £150,000. It currently lists the pay of 118 senior staff on its website.
Pay grade 11 alone costs the BBC more than £75m a year.
The last BBC annual report for 2014/2015 said that since 2011 the number of senior managers employed by the BBC had fallen by 71 to 413.
An inside source at the BBC told Press Gazette they believed the corporation was moving senior management “out of the spotlight” – rather than cutting them, despite making outward commitments to cutbacks.
The source said that staff retain their higher salaries and perks in a process known as “re-badging”.
“I think it’s an accounting trick,” they said. “It’s to look like the cuts are happening when they aren’t.
“It means they can show a reduction in senior managers to the National Audit Office that they aren’t actually achieving.”
They added: “You can be a pay grade 11 but being paid more than the Prime Minister – possibly quite a lot more
“The BBC are breaking their own rule.
“They are saying they shouldn’t pay more than x amount but actually the average salary for pay grade 11 is above the roof. You are actually being under paid compared to your colleagues if you are within the pay limit.”
A BBC spokesperson said that any former senior management roles that are now grade 11 roles are included in senior management headcount and paybill figures published in the BBC Annual Report.
They said: “Salary bands are internal guidelines and while BBC salaries are generally lower than at commercial competitors there will always be occasions where we need people with specific skills that we have to pay for.
“In recent years we’ve cut the number of senior managers and pay by a third and we’re currently making good progress in making the BBC leaner and simpler, including cutting 1,000 posts.”
But Press Gazette’s BBC source said: “The cuts aren’t being made. The senior managers simply aren’t leaving.
“We know we have got less money now, and even less coming down the road, and everything is still continuing. All the managers are still here. It’s a really worrying time for people.”
Former BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten once joked there were “more senior leaders at the BBC than in the Chinese communist party”.