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BBC spending watchdog pays more than £3m of public money on its own London offices

Sunday 21 February 2010

The regulator that checks BBC spending has paid out more than £3million for its own new offices, it was revealed today.
The new base for the BBC Trust is a stone\'s throw from the broadcaster\'s headquarters and has been styled by interior designers and equipped with a video wall to give glamour to its entrance hall.
It has a specially soundproofed office for the Trust\'s chairman Sir Michael Lyons to protect the privacy of his meetings.
£3m office cost: BBC Trust boss Sir Michael Lyons recommended in 2004 that public sector offices should be moved out of London
The spending on the offices in an Edwardian building close to Broadcasting House totals £3.2million - a cost of more than £70,000 for each of the 45 employees of the watchdog who will work there.
Sir Michael has chosen accommodation in one of central London\'s most expensive areas in defiance of his own advice to Gordon Brown that both public regulators and BBC departments should shift out of London to save taxpayers\' money.
In 2004 a report for the then Chancellor by Sir Michael said that moving public sector offices out of London could save £2billion a year.
His recommendations were that the Government should look at \'dispersal opportunities\' for the BBC and that the legitimacy and independence of watchdog bodies would be improved if they moved to cheaper locations in the provinces.
The BBC Trust, which is governing body as well as regulator of the BBC, has been under fire from both the Government and opposition politicians over its perceived lack of independence from the Corporation.
Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has called it a \'cheerleader\' for the Corporation and Tories - who believe the Trust\'s failings were shown up by the Sachsgate scandal when Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand left obscene messages on an elderly actor\'s answerphone - are likely to scrap it if they win the election.
The new row over the Trust\'s accommodation arrangements comes as the National Audit Office prepares to publish a scathing report on the way the BBC spent £813million refurbishing Broadcasting House.
It will look at how the project came to run two years late and £20million over budget.
Auditors are also likely to consider whether it was value for money to spend £25,000 on a remote control helicopter flight to film the building as part of a £3.9million \'celebration\' of Broadcasting House.
The Trust\'s new offices in Great Portland Street have been decorated on the advice of interior designers Overbury on a theme that depicts antique radios and a gramophone.
A black-and-white photograph of Broadcasting House covers an entire wall.
United: Both Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw (left) and his Tory counterpart Jeremy Hunt have been critical of the BBC Trust
The £2.2million cost of renting the offices for eight years was pushed up by a further £1million spent on decorating and fitting out the building. Some £250,000 went on interior design.
Tories were scathing about the move yesterday. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: \'This is a ridiculous situation and one that is costing licence fee payers yet more money.
\'The BBC Trust is supposed to ensure we get value for money, something that has clearly not happened here. What with this and reports of massive overspending on buildings, the whole of the BBC needs to get a grip.\'

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