Star date: 16th October 2013


"We saw how people can fiddle the figures on who is local and who is not" Meg Hillier MP

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has slammed Peel Holdings over its studio monopoly at MediaCityUK and its offshore tax status in its latest report, while questioning job and economic benefits that were supposed to be created with the BBC move to Salford.

Full details here…

Today's report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on the BBC move to Salford makes intriguing reading, particularly one exchange between BBC North Director Peter Salmon and Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, that happened back in July when the committee was taking evidence…

Peter Salmon is there, trying to big up the local job figures, the apprentices and the stat that 10% of BBC staff live in Salford; and Meg Hillier just slaps him down…

"That is all great, but I am an MP who was next to the Olympic site, and we saw how people can fiddle the figures on who is local and who is not" she spits "What postaudit are you going to do?...Are you doing any postaudit to see what real life changes you have made in terms of people who were living here before you arrived like a spaceship from outer space, and then started working here or got jobs over time?"

"We have instigated a piece of research on the economic impact of the BBC in the area" responds Salmon.

"…at the moment you have recruited 39 staff from Salford on the basis of
the 254 that you have recruited" Hillier adds "There is promise of 15,000 jobs in the wider area. I am aware that the council has taken a lot of risk in putting in infrastructure in terms of backing up buses and tram routes, and other facilities. There is a trust thing here. The local community has spent its tax money on supporting and welcoming the BBC, and it seems to me that if I were them, I would want something back for it..."

At last, somebody with some kind of authority is at least challenging the offical line on the BBC's move to Salford. Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, concluded today that "The longer term success of the move to Salford depends on the BBC achieving the wider benefits it promised. These include…stimulating economic and other regional benefits, including creating up to 15,000 jobs."

The MPs' report recommended that "The BBC needs to establish clear measures for all the intended benefits of the move, routinely monitor them and keep the BBC Trust informed of progress."

Meanwhile, as Salford people question the benefits of MediaCityUK, the MPs' report slates those who have truly benefited…particularly those eleven BBC staff who received over £100,000 in relocation allowances

"Some relocation allowances that the BBC paid to staff to move to Salford seem excessive and its recording of exceptions, some of which resulted in higher payments, was inadequate" the report stated "In 11 cases, the costs exceeded £100,000 per person, with one costing £150,000. Around 10% of staff who relocated to Salford received allowances that were exceptions to the BBC's standard policy. In many cases, these exceptions, and the reasons for making them, were not clearly recorded by the BBC."

Written evidence to the MPs also showed that the BBC spent huge amounts on travel to Media City…

The cost of staff flights was £363,483, while `guests/talent/contributors' flights cost £307,038. Staff taxi costs were £211,021, while £391,908 was spent on taxis for `guests/talent/contributors'. Staff also spent £1,837,931 travelling by rail, while £588,734 was spent on `guests/talent/contributors'. Altogether an eye-watering total of well over two and a half million pounds. No figures were given for bus fares!

The MPs had a real go at Peel Holdings and the company's relationship with the BBC.

"The BBC risks becoming overly dependent on the Peel Group, which not only owns the BBC's buildings at Salford but also the studio facilities and surrounding property" said Margaret Hodge "As an organization funded by the licence fee, the BBC  should set clearly defined expectations for its relationships with its commercial partners. It must make clear that it expects the companies with which it contracts to pay their fair share of tax.

"The BBC's decision to enter into a 10-year contract for studio space at Salford seems to take little account the fast pace of change in the broadcasting industry" she added "The BBC could end up having to pay for studio services it no longer needs."

The report added that "The BBC needs to demonstrate to the BBC Trust that it has assessed the potential risks of the Peel Group having a dominant position at its Salford site and taken appropriate steps to address them. It should also make clear its expectation that, as an organization funded by the licence fee, it expects companies with which it contracts to pay their fair share of tax.

"The fast pace of change in the broadcasting industry means that the BBC's decision to enter a long-term contractual commitment for studio services was risky" it adds "The BBC locked itself into a 10-year contract for studio space at Salford, and committed to a guaranteed minimum annual spend during the contract term. The pace of technological change in the broadcasting sector means that the BBC could end up having to pay for studio services that it no longer needs. In the first year of this contract, the BBC underspent on one type of studio service by £500,000."

Back in July, when the MPs were taking evidence at the BBC, Margaret Hodge had a top rant at Peel… "We do not have a full breakdown of what they do, but the company on the whole, at maximum, pays 10% corporation tax. That is at maximum. That is just totting it up. They do not pay their fair share of corporation tax."

The BBC's Zarin Patel responded: "Madam Chairman, I think it would be really hard for the BBC to take the part of HMRC in judging the tax affairs of companies with which we contract."

To which Hodge replied… "We are not asking you to be HMRC. We are just saying that when you are using taxpayers' money - the licence fee is a form of taxation - it ought to be with companies that pay their fair share back into the communal pot. That is all; it is a very simple proposition."

And added "Talking to people who live in the area, Peel - whatever it is they call themselves, as they have lots of different companies - have almost a monopoly on capital investment in this area, which always worries me as to whether or not the BBC then get the best price for them."

While Margaret Hodge and Meg Hillier have questioned the ethics and benefits of the BBC's move to Salford and the companies involved in that move, the Salford Star very much doubts whether anything is going to actually change.

Meanwhile, Salford Council insists on throwing more and more money at the project without asking any serious questions, and while cutting public services in the city, insisting it has, er, no money…

See also previous Salford Star articles…

• Think The Unthinkable – stop the £3million to BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the £2million a year MediaCityUK slush fund - click here 

* BBC Hands Peel £500,000 for Nothing - click here

* How Peel has Cashed in on MediaCityUK with Public Money - click here

* Salford Council Spending Doubles at MediaCityUK - click here

* The Landing Chief Exec Company Rakes in £173,000 - click here

* MediaCityUK Water Taxi Cost Rises to almost £1million - click here

* Salford Council £75million Cuts While £20million on Prestige Spending This Year - click here

Read the full Public Accounts Committee report - click here

at 14:12:27 on 18 October 2013
There is a lot wrong with zero hrs contracts. A family member has just been laid off from a job which was a zero hrs contract. Last Friday-(and after working every unsociable shift they were asked to) they were told that due to a work shortage they were being laid of immediately. However, they would be left on their books as a flexible worker-just in case the work picked up. On Monday they rang the jobcentre to register, and made an appt for Thursday. On Monday they received a call from the company, saying that some work had come in and could they come in on the next day(Tues).They notified the jobcentre. Yesterday(Thurs) they were laid off again! How can people make a life on these terms.
Sick of all politicians wrote
at 14:12:00 on 18 October 2013
Nothing wrong with zero hour contracts ? What an obscene exploiter-apologist you are . Are you having a laugh , Mr Felse ?
Bernard Brough wrote
at 14:11:49 on 18 October 2013
I have to say that reading Mr Felse's comments is like reading Alice in Wonderland. How in the name of Aneurin Bevan are zero hour contracts of any use to anybody but the bloodsucking, freeloading leeches who want people to work for them but would really rather not pay. Mr Felse as Plato wrote "Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something."
Lancashire Lad wrote
at 09:36:29 on 18 October 2013
Michael Felse. If you don't work for the Council (or one of the numerous shirt tail organisations that proliferate in Salford) you really should apply for payment because you are the greatest unpaid cheer leader in Salford Politico's. Your spewing out of statistics borders on the comedic.
Michael Felse wrote
at 07:20:40 on 18 October 2013
Rising to your calls for reply. Hi Brian, there is nothing wrong with zero hour contracts, it gives unemployed citizens access to training, enterprise and confidence building in making their very own one direction. In fact it is also ideal for Greater Manchester's annual 40,000 students, shifting them from student status onto Modern Student Enterprise Contracts. Mark my word, my idea will happen when the Powers-That-Be realise MotherUK must modernise our traditional kick-heel students' world. As for other job creations, one vision I did not give is on SSAS and SSIS pension funds. There are £billions that can be invested in land, capital and business premises. It is an ideal fund to buy all the empty shops in Greater Manchester and to turn them into third sector enterprises or conversions into new residential properties within the limits of HMRC rules. And Hi LancasLad, quick answer - it is all wrote in my own time - I do not work for Council - making me pretty decent as you say.
Marbles wrote
at 07:20:19 on 18 October 2013
Michael Felse, I've found some marbles. I believe you are missing some?
Lancashir Lad wrote
at 17:19:26 on 17 October 2013
Come on chaps give credit to the BBC at their new Media City Mausoleum, THEY HAVE BROUGHT JOBS TO THE CITY. Unfortunately the jobs concerned are the taxi driving staff who pick up the BBC's great panjandrum's at the airport or railway station following their 1st class jaunt "oop north" to present or appear in so called local programme's then scoot off back to London to put their children to bed. Oh, and all on expenses of course ie your money and my money.
Lancashire Lad wrote
at 17:19:05 on 17 October 2013
Michael Felse. When I read your contribution's I get a distinct whiff of bull excrement! Do you write your contributions in Council time? or do you at least have the decency to write them in your own time?
Tim Whelan wrote
at 17:18:23 on 17 October 2013
There may be only 39 people from Salford itself who have been taken on, but in addition there are other people from eleswhere in Greater Manchester who have been taken on. My friend from Droylesden was very glad to get the opportunity to get a job at the BBC. As you say, it depends who you call "local", abd if by defining the local area too narrowly you're giving a false impression of the benefits of the BBC move.
Brian Francis Kirkham wrote
at 17:17:07 on 17 October 2013
Michael - have you been given a cheerleading role or what? Peel Did not save the city. It merely did a number on two proud cities in order to obtain assets. It shifted its dockland operations to Liverpool , leading to the loss of the docks in Salford , everything was rosy in the garden as our council moved heaven and earth to get jobs back - move it along 80s and 90s Manchester's Dockland gets a Liverpool look as its rebranded...retail booms! (but the dockers have to look elsewhere - Trafford park for one). Offices, Retail and a theatre gets built (using council money) and the rest is history. Its never spent a penny on any of its own schemes - it uses the council development budget as part of its own pot (and you wonder why its a multi million pound company?). If a councillor did that - you would be calling for his head. as for the ten thousand jobs angle - get on the phone to IDS at work and pensions - he'd love to hear from you - particularly on the angle where 2,800 graduates would be working at mediacity for near to zip...he's already running summat like that - its called workfare!
Michael Felse wrote
at 11:29:45 on 17 October 2013
Of course it would be too easy to close our eyes and not see all the investment that has taken place in Salford thanks to Peel. If Peel had not saved our City the decline would have been seriously damaging. I for one thank Peel for giving time to help Salford build its strong base line of new businesses. We now must work together to get all the projected jobs in place. We need Salford to be a Council of Action to lead the way forward on inward investment and jobs.
Brian F Kirkham wrote
at 05:20:17 on 17 October 2013
To all at Salford Star...a little reminder of Salford's past ethos regarding Peel Holdings - it goes something like this "JUMP! How High?!!". Now this something for nothing company has been exposed by central governance - isn't it time our local governance took a stand? You don't have to rubberstamp every single cornball scheme, councillors - until there's some evidence that we're actually benefiting from these schemes - the running tap of finance from council to peel can be shut off, as with the mediacity scheme - its shown that we paid to line their pockets, and i'm darn sure the business rates would have favoured peel too...cant question those who've engineered this tho...as peel wont talk..the council executives? apart from the mayor they're taking jobs elsewhere. As a proud citizen of this city. Mr Mayor I Implore You, and your staff. Stop this Farce Today, Get Peel to put its house in order and get the Council-Peel Relationship back on a proper footing, where schemes are approved not on a few nods and winks but where council, working on behalf of those funding it, get something that benefits the neighbourhood, raises money and Jobs for the community and we can see the benefit. BTW, Zero hour Contracts are meaningless...Any jobs from managerial to the most menial should be sustainable. Oh and to answer Michaels question, why should peel be singled out? Because They've played Salford's Execs for fools for far too long now ..That's why. If a multi-billion company cannot find funds for its own developments on land it owns - it should look carefully at its accounts...there are far more important things that the council could invest the councils money in than a company that simply takes takes takes. of course, Michael, if you know otherwise - i'd love to see what Peel's latest scheme has done for Salford...because the shutters are up as far as transparency is concerned, when are we going to get our money back eh? Even if you left it at the Bank you would get some level of return!
Lemon Peel wrote
at 22:05:24 on 16 October 2013
So what if we don't pay our fair share of Corporation Tax ? Our CEO's and managers have champagne, caviar, private jets and big mansions to pay for, they don't come cheap you know
Dockers Son wrote
at 22:05:10 on 16 October 2013
How about Peel pay what they don't pay in Corporation Tax to the people of Salford, this could pay for all sorts of projects for the people of Salford, perhaps the cranes might be on such a list
Michael Felse wrote
at 22:04:52 on 16 October 2013
This is an alarming report. Peel has the ability to create 50,000 jobs in the surrounding area with 20% of them in Salford. Offer 2,800 zero hour publicity performance contracts to all Media Study Students at Salford University. Plus 2,000 Leadership self start contracts to the business sector (building business placement networks. Launch a Fit at Fifty ethos for 1,400 as a link to Salford's Wellbeing Programme and 800 happy to live longer jobs to all the early retirees to skill them in self-health and fitness, saving the NHS millions by uplifting care services for Salford's local community. This is a straight 7000 jobs. Then add in 3,000 jobs in the third sector (social enterprises)using the empty premises as shared work spaces. 10,000 jobs for Salford - and roll the initiative out in Greater Manchester on a ratio of 5 to 1 = 50,000 jobs. Of course it will take Councils of Action to make the jobs plan work - why should Peel be singled out?
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