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Spending watchdog slams running costs of BBC's Broadcasting House

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The National Audit Office (NAO) has criticised the running costs of the BBC’s headquarters at Broadcasting House, claiming they are nearly three times higher than the average UK office

According to the government’s spending watchdog, the annual upkeep of the broadcaster’s central London flagship building - originally designed by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard Architects (MJP) - topped £1,400 per square metre of floorspace. 

The building became operational in late 2012, ten years after the troubled scheme won planning. MJP delivered phase one in 2006, including the John Peel Wing, refurbishment of the Grade II*-listed Broadcasting House and BBC Radio Theatre, before being replaced by Sheppard Robson who took over as delivery architects on Phase Two.

The NAO said that the cost of mainitaining and running the headquarters near Oxford Circus was also 49 per cent higher than the benchmark for the cost of offices in the same part of central London.

The upkeep of the building now accounts for a third of the total annual cost of running the BBC’s estate in the UK, accommodating 23 per cent of public service broadcasting staff.

Meanwhile, at £649 per square metre, the overall cost of running the BBC’s main properties was 32 per cent higher than the national ‘benchmark’ average in 2012-13.

The committee also criticised the use and efficiency of David Chipperfield Architects’ Pacific Quay building in Glasgow, which completed in 2007.

The NAO said the site was ‘underused’ and the layout made it ‘more difficult to sublet parts of’ the building which were surplus to the BBC’s requirements.

It emerged that the broadcaster was considering ‘redesigning the layout and moving staff from other parts of the country to the site’ to ‘improve utilisation’.

In 2013-14, 7.3 per cent of the licence fee income was spent on running the BBC’s UK estate, which includes 154 buildings.

The broadcaster currently spends £273 million on running its 457,500m² estate - 42,600m² of which still remains empty (a 12 per cent surplus as of September 2014).  

However the NAO praised corporation for reducing the size of its estate, which has helped improve efficiency, between 1999 and 2014. The report found that the BBC had trimmed the net internal area of its estate by 29 per cent, from 640,000m² - a reduction which coincided with an increase in its broadcast and digital output.

Nick Prettejohn, the chair of the Trust’s value for money committee, said: ‘The BBC has reduced the size of the estate by almost a third while at the same time adding new TV channels and radio stations, and modernising its buildings.

‘These are significant achievements and I am pleased that the NAO have recognised the good progress made.

‘Today’s report also gives a clear steer on where further improvements can be made and the Trust will continue to track progress to make sure the NAO’s recommendations are implemented in full.’

Verdict on MJP Architects and Sheppard Robson’s Broadcasting House, London

The cost of Broadcasting House in London, on which the BBC has a 30-year lease, has increased the cost of the [corporation’s] estate above external benchmarks. Its running cost per square metre in 2012-13, using a standardised cost classification system used for benchmarking
real estate, was £1,422. Benchmarking exercises carried out by the BBC indicated that the running cost was nearly three times the UK average for comparable buildings, excluding specialist space, and 49% higher than the benchmark for the same part of central London.

Key facts

Budgeted development cost: £991 million
Target operational date: December 2008
Revised development cost: £1,049 million
Actual operational date: December 2012
Annual running cost in 2013-14: £89 million
Capacity: 5,400 people
Net internal area: 52,000 square metres

Verdict on David Chipperfield Architects’ BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay, Glasgow (2007)

‘The site is underused and the layout makes it more difficult to sublet parts of it that are surplus to the BBC’s requirements. Local market conditions may also limit subletting opportunities. The BBC considers that it could improve utilisation by redesigning the layout and moving staff from other parts of the country to the site’

Key facts

Original budgeted cost: £126 million
Target operational date: June 2006
Revised budgeted cost: £188 million
Actual operational date: July 2007
Actual development cost: £188 million
Capacity: 1,706 people
Annual running cost in 2013-14: £15 million Net internal area: 24,800 square metres

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • which equivalent spaces has it been compared with?
    Do those spaces work round the clock at full tilt?- pretty much 2-3 times more hours of activity per day than most offices or businesses.
    Have they really managed to exclude the specialist spaces and equipment from comparisons? Extra powerful editing computers running round the clock? Office areas used for broadcasting out of round the clock.
    Not really sure I believe it to be honest. Sounds like someone hasn't really thought about what the BBC actually does in its buildings.

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