BBC to review pay structure

Concern over tax payments.

MPs heard at the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday that 148 of its 467 TV and radio presenters were paid through personal service companies (PSCs) firms rather than on the corporation’s payroll.

Wages paid through PSCs, which are legal, do not have income tax and national insurance contributions deducted at source, allowing tax dues to be reduced.

The PAC also heard claims from an unnamed presented that he was "bullied” into using a PSC arrangement for his pay.

The BBC's chief financial officer, Zarin Patel, said yesterday at the Committee hearing that due to high levels of public concern over the use of PSCs to employ some presenters, it would review whether this was appropriate for the broadcaster.

At least 41 BBC "off payroll" freelancers earning £100,000 or more last year did not pay tax at source, with five of these earning more than £150,000 per year, according to the corporation’s figures following a freedom of information request by Conservative MP David Mowat.

"With the amount of public concern expressed today, I think I have to say yes, we will review it, and we will review it with real seriousness," Patel told the House of Commons public accounts committee.

"But can I emphasise that none of this is designed to avoid tax. That is not why we use an extensive number of freelance contracts at the BBC."

This article originally appeared in economia.

BBC logo. Photograph, Getty Images.

This is a news story from economia.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.