BBC makes progress on agency staff spend, says NAO report

The National Audit Office says it needs the BBC to publish the amount it spends on freelancers and agency staff over a prolonged period to conduct a full assessment of BBC staff expenditure.

A NAO office report, published this morning, reveals the BBC has made progress in cutting payroll staff costs and numbers, in particular the cost and size of its senior management. The broadcaster has also increased the proportion of staff outside London and created new posts in priority areas, but the NAO says a full assessment of its expenditure on its staff needs to include the number and cost of its freelance and agency staff.

According to the NAO report, over the period from 2010-11 to 2015-16, the BBC has “not monitored or reported centrally in a consistent way” on the number and cost of all types of ‘variable staff’ (freelance and agency workers), meaning it has not been possible to assess how its total requirement for people has changed over time.

Although the NAO adds variable staff costs have been monitored in divisions, reporting of total numbers and costs was not brought together and tracked centrally by executive management before 2015-16. 

According to BBC data in March 2016, the BBC engaged roughly 2,500 variable staff on a full-time equivalent basis but NAO says the BBC is unable to report on a like-for-like basis whether it currently makes use of more or fewer variable staff than in previous years.

In a statement sent to Recruiter, a BBC spokesperson confirmed that detailed reporting on variable staffing was implemented during the last financial year, 2016-17.

“The BBC is now able to provide very specific detail when reporting on variable staffing, including the provision of headcount and cost data by individuals and across all of the various BBC divisions,” the spokesperson added.

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