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SPEAKERS CORNER...Kenneth Roy

  

 

What's this with BBC Scotland taxi expenses? First, we cannot blame the prisoners of Pacific Quay if they long to escape from that human warehouse in a black cab, or by any other legal means. Second (or second of all, to follow current linguistic practice), the taxi chit for the last two years amounts to only £1 million,  excluding such individual accounts as the controller's, Ken McQuarrie, who has triumphantly managed to spend £1,600 of his employer's money on taxis in the first half of this year – a mere £61.53 a week, every week, assuming, as I confidently do, that the great man took no holidays during the period in question. 'I had that Ken McQuarrie in the back of my cab three times last week'....yeah, good for Ken.      
     For the second time this week, I have a small interest to declare. Twice in one day last August, I was summoned to be interviewed by BBC Scotland. The first was for radio in the local unmanned studio. I was promised a fee which never materialised. They wanted me back for a late-night telly chat with Alf Young and Christopher Harvie – it was a sort of Scottish Review benefit night – and offered me a taxi both ways, a combined distance of 60 miles. I felt this was a bit much, so I said I would make my own way to Glasgow by train, for which I claimed no expenses, if they would arrange a taxi back. I watched in alarm as the pitiless meter rose, mile by mile, until it broke the hundred quid barrier at the Monkton roundabout.
     On that day in August I had been Mr Probity to a fault. Yet still I managed to cost Beebicus Scotticus more than a hundred quid in one sitting to the Ayrshire coast: suddenly I became partly responsible for the excesses revealed this week. I felt oddly guilty. But why? There are two possible explanations. Partly it is a hangover from my earlier incarnation as a BBC employee, when expenses were a dirty word and each pathetic claim was beadily scrutinised by the accounts department. Also there is a recurring nightmare to consider – it still haunts me occasionally - that, although I had ceased to work for the BBC, it continued to put the money in the bank at the end of the month, year after year, and I never got around to owning up that I was no longer there.
     All this may help to explain why I feel awful about taking anything from the BBC. But I am relieved to report that my successors feel quite differently.


There is no doubt that Donalda MacKinnon and many others belong to an accepted expenses culture. When did it start? Perhaps I played a tiny part, if only in the resistance movement.


     After yesterday's piece about Culture and Sport Glasgow, and the mention of Seamas MacInnes as a member of one of its boards, someone emailed to inform me that, although Mr MacInnes may be a humble cafe owner, his wife is quite big news. Her name is Donalda MacKinnon and she is No.2 at Pacific Quay with the title head of programmes and services.
     As it turns out, Mr MacInnes is quite big news himself. His cafe is described by his publisher as 'iconic' – does that mean it's deeply religious? – and he is about to launch a Christmas best-seller entitled 'The Stornoway Black Pudding Bible'. Oh, I get it – icons, bibles, the Western Isles – it only remains to be established where the black blood comes in. But I digress. It's Mrs MacInnes we are concerned with today.
     She is paid between £130,000 and £160,000 a year. Wow. She could get rather more as No.2 at NHS Education for Scotland – for working part-time at that – but it seems quite reasonable by BBC Scotland standards. Way back in 2002, when Donalda MacKinnon was head of Gaelic and there was some discussion of funding for Gaelic broadcasting, she said: 'There will be some disaffected souls who think we have loads of money. We don't, but we do try and use it as judiciously as possible'.
     Her expenses claims demonstrate the utter veracity of this statement. The first on the list before me, dated 28 May 2006, is for a telephone call from a hotel costing £1.95. 'Battery on mobile had gone flat, no charger', the claim explains. And indeed Donalda MacKinnon is no charger. Well, not much of a charger.
     When the head of programmes and services does charge, it is scrupulously done. Judicious even. A 'thank you gift' on 3 December 2004 came in at £29.48 precisely. On the same day her employer paid for a 'thank you card' at £2.30. Flowers on 4 May 2008 cost £39.50, a retirement dinner for an 'external partner' at the Hotel Du Vin in Glasgow on 30 July the same year £292.71. And so it goes on, item after item, all in order – for hosting a table at the Children in Need ball, £131; for a room at the Sheraton Hotel, £275 ('one night at the Edinburgh Festival'). Her taxi bill? Nothing special. One for 'Attending Awayday' – a mere £8.
     Tell me (by the way). What is an awayday? Bridget McConnell is organising one for Dr George Reid and others to discuss 'the way forward' – if any. And now we find Donalda MacKinnon going away too. What happens at these awaydays? Where are they held? How much do they cost?
     In 2006, the head of programmes and services went away quite far – to Brazil with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. An entry for 'Vaccinations, £60' on 10 March that year is followed by a bill for £2,504.39 for drinks and dinner with the orchestra on 30 March. But let us not leap to conclusions. There were 80 in the jolly party that night, which works out at a mere £31.30 per head. Man must eat.
     Yet there is no doubt that Donalda MacKinnon and many others belong to an accepted expenses culture. When did it start? Perhaps I played a tiny part, if only in the resistance movement.
     I became aware of the rot setting in when, after several years travelling in the cameraman's back seat, an arrangement which gave the crew an opportunity to discuss our latest wacky assignment for Revolting Scotland, I was told by the personnel department that I must take driving lessons and go everywhere in my new car at the BBC's expense. I replied that Bob Warrilow (the cameraman) was happy with the present arrangement, which saved the BBC a lot of money, and that in any case I didn't want to drive. They threatened to fire me (although they never did). The expenses culture had been established, although it was a long time before people started charging judiciously for thank-you cards.
     On 4 September 2008, the head of programmes and services claimed £10 for a taxi to the CBI dinner which she was attending 'on behalf of Kenny'. For the avoidance of doubt, I was not that Kenny. But whoever the Kenny was, he showed impeccable taste in avoiding a CBI dinner. As one surveys the bleak record of her hectic schedule, it is almost possible to feel sorry for the head of programmes and services.
     But, having studied her expenses claims, I now wish I had got the taxi both ways.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Kenneth Roy.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.

Comments  

 
# enneffess 2010-11-19 00:39
I have to provide a receipt for a taxi and must have a damn good reason for using one.

About time the BBC was cracked down on as well.

Amazing how some people forget the money they are spending is not theirs.
 
 
# Jimbo 2010-11-19 00:59
They don't forget the money they are spending is not theirs.

It's because it's not theirs that they are so free with it. They know that regardless of how much they spend they'll have more of our free cash again next year, and the year after, and the year after...

On another topic: Has Democrat senator Menendez and Labour mischief maker Richard Baker lost interest in their Megrahi inquiry now that the US mid-term elections are over?
 
 
# Roll_On_2011 2010-11-19 01:57
The BBC bunker they don't want you to know about:

independent.co.uk/.../...

Who knew that, 10 storeys beneath a Worcestershire hill, the corporation is ready for Armageddon?

It all makes sense, once you know what you're looking at. The 200 acres of thickly wooded hillside, inaccessible by public footpath; the radio mast strategically poking out on top; the hidden entrance, just off the A44 near Evesham, in Worcestershire, surrounded by CCTV cameras and a high-security barrier. But to the passing motorist, there is nothing about Wood Norton Hall to identify it as the site of the BBC's secret nuclear bunker.

Buried 10 storeys into the hillside is a fully functioning nuclear bunker, built at great expense in 1966, at the height of the Cold War. So few people knew of its existence that, even when it was being built, visiting trainees were told not to ask why all that concrete was being mixed. Those involved in its construction were obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act, and even now you won't get a peep out of the BBC press office to acknowledge the reality.
 
 
# CapnAndy 2010-11-19 08:24
A good intesting link.
Anybody finding this interesting should follow this link to the Wiltshire site. It's fascinating.

bbc.co.uk/.../underground_city
 
 
# Online Editor 2010-11-19 06:56
Yesterday's FMQ's can be viewed in the Politics section.

For those who like a flutter at the weekend we have also revamped and amalgamated Alan Barbour's golf and racing columns and created a brand new oddsOn section that includes football ...... have a look, it's under Sports.
 
 
# Robert Louis 2010-11-19 07:59
online ED, please can we have some sort of warning in place for readers, when articles such as this are so funny. I nearly choked on my porridge.

I would echo what some others have said. It beggars belief the attitude that public sector employees have towards 'expenses'. Since few of them have commercial experience, they do often believe that executives in business run extravagant expense accounts.

Having worked in global commerce, let me assure them, this is not the case. In most major global organisations, even very highly paid staff do NOT fly business class (they can pay for an upgrade themselves if they wish), they are told to take the tube (not taxis) when in London, they are restricted as to what they can add to their overnight hotel bills, evening meal (overall cost limited) 1 drink and breakfast. Some companies allow flexibility on hotel grades which can be used, but there is usually some kind of 'notional' overnight cost which employees cannot stray from.

MP's and some (especially Labour) MSP's think that claiming ridiculous sums on expenses is 'normal' in industry. It is not.

It is only the very elite who travel by say private jet, and business class travel is usually limited to longer flights (but even then, some major corporations do NOT allow biz class, unless above the grade of VP).

All the rest is urban myth.

On all of these matters, some companies are more generous than others, and there are some exceptions, but there is one aspect throughout ALL industry (unless you are the CEO), and that is that itemised, detailed receipts must be provided - or the money IS NOT PAID.

So, to look at all these expenses from the public sector makes me angry. They need to remember the people who pay their wages - every single freaking day.
 
 
# Stravaiger 2010-11-19 20:10
With respect, Robert Louis, please do not confuse the BBC with the public sector.

I cannot speak for the BBC but I do know that expenses in the Scottish public services are paid in arrears based on a completed expenses form with receipts attached. All claims must be in accordance with standing financial instructions and are subject to audit.

Any public sector employee would recognise and endorse your paragraph 3 above. There is no such "attitude" as you describe.
 
 
# Robert Louis 2010-11-20 10:36
Maybe things are well run where you are - and that is a good thing. I am sure not all public employees are throwing money away on dodgy expenses.

Having said that, there does seem to be something of a theme running through pretty much ALL public bodies in Glasgow (surprise, surprise). In Glasgow, the tradition is to throw tax payers money at businesses and people who support the Labour party. Cronyism and nepotism are endemic within Glasgow and much of the west of Scotland.

I'm just surprised the BBC don't do 'awaydays; - they seem popular in Glasgow.

see newsnetscotland.com/.../...
 
 
# CapnAndy 2010-11-19 08:20
Any manager who allows an employee to take a Glasgow black cab beyond the Glasgow boundary at company cost needs his head examined.
In the private sector they'd get their books.
 
 
# Diabloandco 2010-11-19 09:30
Completely OT but is an extremist group blowing up bits of Loch Lomond OR is the MSM trying to hype up some daft schoolboy experiment ?
 
 
# Robabody 2010-11-19 10:52
A meteor perhaps? Tis the season for showers, other than the BBC I mean.
 
 
# GrassyKnollington 2010-11-19 09:43
Donalda Mackinnon said 'There will be some disaffected souls who think we have loads of money. We don't, but we do try and use it as judiciously as possible'.

"loads of money" just had a flash of Donalda as Harry Enfield's Stavros waving a wad of notes.

I guess that's your festive copy of Seamus's Stornoway Black Pudding Bible in the remainder bin Kenneth.
 
 
# J Wil 2010-11-19 10:28
When is the BBC going to take its share of austerity? It is totally unacceptable that when all around people are losing their jobs, their houses, their pensions, their benefits and their dignity that the BBC retains its staffing levels and its perks and goes from strength to strength financially.

Removal of the political commission from BBC Scotland would be a good start on the road back from perdition.
 
 
# Holebender 2010-11-19 10:52
I see no problem with the BBC reimbursing all out of pocket expenses for guests who are being interviewed or otherwise participating in some BBC programme. However, employees should be subjected to the same strictures as employees of any other corporation.
 
 
# Robabody 2010-11-19 11:02
It's good that we are able to get the detail discussed in the article unlike the cover up done by our beloved Troughers in Westminster. A twenty five percent cost reduction would be a good starter for 10 for the BBC. The discipline would do these lovies the world of good but it'll take someone with effective leadership to do it, obviously not the current incumbant nor Buggins when it's his / her turn.

Regarding your comments Robert - been there, done that and that's exactly how it worked for me.
 
 
# rgweir 2010-11-19 12:02
It would be interesting to find out if when the bbc give out contracts to taxi firms if any employees of the bbc are relaited in any way to the taxi firms owners.
this may be a long shot,but could there be any connections between say,,taxi firm/MSPs-labour/councilors-labour.
 
 
# Aucheorn 2010-11-19 13:24
I have worked for the company that has the BBC contract in Edinburgh. The contract is keenly fought over because it is so lucrative, many a time I sat with meter running supposedly to go to the station and then find I've to go out of town because some story has run past their finishing time or the train has been missed.
 
 
# Astonished 2010-11-19 13:24
"for hosting a table at the Children in Need ball, £131;"

Is this right ?

BBC Scotlandshire's No2, earning in excess of £100,000 a year charges the BBC for attending a charity ball? In fact the BBC's much hyped chariteee ball.

I am so appalled that words fail me.

With kind of "expenses" - Is it any wonder that they want labour back in power.




I wonder who paid for her taxi home?
 
 
# Robabody 2010-11-19 23:16
Yes A - Children in Need. It was a shocker when old Tel was found to be taking the wage packet for the event, it being a charity do and all I had sort of thought that people were giving their time for free. Just like a load of others like collectors. Pop went another BBC bubble
 
 
# rgweir 2010-11-19 14:06
Off topic.
nicol stephen given seat in the lords,WHY.
I hope i heard wrong.
 
 
# Diabloandco 2010-11-19 14:07
Never thought of meteor shower hmm!

OT again , just received my bumper stickers and a very weil happit mug- delighted!
 
 
# tilly 2010-11-19 15:56
rgweir,

Unfortunately you heard right. The list of new peers includes several large party donors, too.

'With 53 new appointments, it will take the total membership of the House of Lords to nearly 750 - the highest number since the bulk of hereditary peers were abolished in 1999.'

This whole charade is an obscenity in a supposedly democractic country.
 
 
# rgweir 2010-11-19 16:34
The thing that bothers me TILLY isthat i have spent most of the afternoon trying to think of a reason to give him a seat,i cant think of one thing.
I may be wrong but i believe most of the politicians who get a seat in the lords is because a lot of them know where the bodies are buried(politica ly)and it is a pay off.
 
 
# tilly 2010-11-19 17:21
Think on it. Come the day when Elmer Fudd is elevated to the Lords as he surely will as evidenced by the selection process in place - if you are rich and a potential donor or are useless and vote to order. I don't think Elmer is the former.
 
 
# tilly 2010-11-19 17:28
Incidentally, and off topic, I forgot to mention Eric Joyce was fined £400 and banned from driving for a year. The security guards who contacted the police said he "was not compus mentis".

I saw him being interviewed by Gordon Brewer on Newsnicht some months ago and he most certainly wasn't compus mentis then, either.
 
 
# rgweir 2010-11-19 20:04
I think we can be sure that his expenses will rise during the year ahead.
Mr joyce will have to either use a taxi nore often to get aboutor use the services of his wife or a friend, either way he should be made to pay for the extra expense from his own pocket as the ban was self inflicted.
 

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