Pension and a salary at same time: a great BBC tradition

Nov 23, 2012
Nigel Horne

New D-G Tony Hall will collect a pension on top of his salary: it’s a perk enjoyed by others at the BBC

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WILL the appointment of Tony Hall as new Director-General finally blow the lid off the BBC’s cosy pension arrangements for senior staff?

MPs and others have expressed surprise overnight at the news that Hall is to receive an £82,000-a-year pension on top of his £450,000 salary when he starts work next March.

The arrangement has been presented as an unconventional fluke of circumstance. Hall worked for 28 years at the BBC before going off to run the Royal Opera House in 2001. As a 61-year-old, he’s entitled to collect his pension and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to do so when he rejoins the BBC.

Angie Bray, one of the MPs on the public affairs committee which looked into BBC payoffs yesterday, said on hearing of Hall’s arrangement: "I think it’s a little bit bizarre that Lord Hall continues to take a pension from the same organisation that he is now going back to. It’s a bit of a contradiction."

Ms Bray should know that there is nothing bizarre or contradictory about the arrangement at all – certainly not from the perspective of the BBC’s higher echelons.

Several BBC employees have been known to collect salaries and pensions at the same time.

The arrangement last came to light in October 2009 when The Sunday Times wrote that the long-serving arts presenter and executive Alan Yentob was receiving a salary as the BBC’s creative director and being paid additional fees for presenting the BBC2 arts series Imagine.

In the course of its investigation, the Sunday Times discovered that Yentob, then 62, was also entitled to take home a "six-figure pension" (having amassed a £2.8m pension pot by 2004, according to the BBC’s own accounts).

Neither Yentob nor the BBC would confirm whether or not Yentob was choosing to take his pension. But a BBC spokesman did admit that regulations had been in place for at least three years which "do allow pensions to be drawn upon whilst a scheme member remains in employment".

According to a Daily Telegraph report in October 2009, the BBC spokesman added: "We're not, however, prepared to comment on people's private financial arrangements. We believe members of the pension scheme have a reasonable expectation of privacy about their personal finances."

John Lawson, head of pensions policy at insurers Standard Life, told the Sunday Times: "This is entirely within the rules, but I have not seen another employer offering this."

A BBC spokesman confirmed today that staffers can still draw on their pensions while collecting their salaries under the corporation’s 'flexible payment scheme'. He was unable to provide the number of BBC employees enjoying this arrangement because individual pension details are private.

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Yo Ho boys the taxpayer is paying

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