The good old days when the BBC used a majority of licensed Taxis
The BBC has spent licence fee-payers' money on 350,000 minicab journeys in the last year, as it is accused of paying up to double the going rate on £10 million of journeys.
Staff at the corporation, who use an internal booking system to arrange cars, have claimed the BBC is paying over the odds for journeys which would be considerably cheaper if booked with a local firm.
The BBC has already confirmed spending more than £10 million on minicab journeys in the last year, with 350,000 separate journeys booked for staff and guests.
A spokeswoman for the corporation defended the system, saying it was important the private hire firms used are "legally compliant, vetted and available when required".
The discrepancy was highlighted in the BBC's internal magazine Ariel, following a letter from staff member Marc Settle, a project producer at the BBC Academy's College of Journalism.
He said the organisation's workers are told to book cabs through internal website Gateway, which promises 'More money for programmes'.
Writing in Ariel this week, he said: "When you book a car via Gateway, you're greeted with a comforting strapline of 'More money for programmes'.
"Is this actually the case? I rang the number on Gateway to get a quote for a journey from Tonbridge in Kent to Gatwick and was told £87.
"That seemed high, so I rang a few local companies and, on average, was quoted £45.
"Another journey from Stanmore to Heathrow was £61 via Gateway yet a local company quoted just £25.
"I know that any receipts which are submitted need then to be processed, and that has a cost. Equally, a central booking system may have merits for auditing purposes.
"I would like to know, though, why minicab journeys booked through the central system seem to cost twice as much as those booked locally."
Another BBC worker, who asked not to be named, added: "When I get a cab when I'm just out on my own time I'll pay £20 to get home, but for the same amount of miles when I book through work it will come to £40 or £50.
"It's a complete waste of licence fee money that should be going on new TV shows, not doled out for expensive minicabs."
A spokesman for BBC Procurement replied to the complaint to say costs were higher in order to ensure the private hire firms were 'legally compliant' and that drivers were vetted properly.
He said: "Charges for cars may appear to be higher than booking locally and directly but, as the BBC completes over 350,000 private hire journeys a year, we have to ensure that the companies used are both legally compliant and vetted and this is done as part of the managed service provision.
"We also require a 24/7 service which ensures broadcast criticality, full transaction reporting covering all journeys, ensuring we are compliant and can report on our P11d (Expenses and Benefits not put through the payroll) obligations."
A BBC source added the sum spent on the Gateway service also encompassed administration fees, and cars for guests on radio and television shows.
In 2008/9, the BBC spent £15.1m on private hire, with a further £13.3m in 2009/10, £12.5m in 2010/11 and £11.3m in 2011/12.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “The BBC is a 24-hour organisation with offices across the UK, and, in common with many large businesses, it will incur travel-related costs.
"However, we are mindful that we are spending public money and we have policies in place to ensure spend on travel is proportionate and appropriate. The cheapest method of travel is always encouraged however on occasion minicab journeys are permitted in exceptional circumstances or where there are time constraints.”
When asked about the reasons for using the internal booking service rather than asking employees to book local firms, she added: “It is important that we have contracts in place with preferred suppliers as we have a responsibility to ensure that private hire companies used by BBC staff, freelancers and guests are legally compliant, vetted and available when required.”
Question from Taxi a Leaks:
Why did the BBC stop using licensed Taxis?
Every vehicle and driver properly vetted and legally compliant.
No fluctuation in costs, every vehicle fitted with Taxi meter.
Special fixed prices available on most journeys.
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