'Utterly unacceptable’: BBC blasted for using public cash to lend money to staff

'Utterly unacceptable’: BBC blasted for using public cash to lend money to staff
The BBC is using license payers’ money to hand loans and advances to staff it has forced to go freelance. The practice has been branded “utterly unacceptable” and “illegal” by disgruntled license fee payers.

The BBC’s deputy director-general, Anne Bulford, admitted on Tuesday that the organization issued hardship payments to staff members who were struggling to make ends meet. It comes after some of its employees were slapped with huge bills when the corporation insisted they set up private service companies (PSC) so they could be employed as freelancers.

“We are talking about comparatively modest sums of money in the overall scheme of things but important to the individuals. We are talking about 15 individuals,” Bulford told the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee. “We think it is the right thing to do.”

The news prompted BBC license fee payers to hit out at the organization for using public cash to pick up the pieces of its own mishaps.

BBC presenters gave a damning account of how the corporation reportedly stripped them of workers’ rights, such as holiday and sick pay and pension contributions, when it asked them to go onto freelance contracts.

Speaking last month in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, the Radio 4 Money Box host, Paul Lewis, said: “This isn’t the story of well-paid presenters trading through companies to avoid tax. This is the story of the BBC forcing hundreds of presenters to form companies and treat them as freelancers."

While the BBC had a “duty of care” to warn staff about the implications of PSCs, Lewis said those warnings were never given. “There are people worried about their mortgages, people who have not been paid for months, people who have had double tax taken off them through this process of recoupment,” Lewis added.

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