“Cut waste, not local radio”, says local MP. BBC bosses “not on the same wavelength as listeners”

BBC bosses should tackle waste, excessive layers of management and inflated salaries, instead of taking the axe to local radio.  That is the view of Lewes MP, Norman Baker, who has now written accordingly to BBC’s Director General, Mark Thompson.

Big wigs at the BBC are seeking to cut local radio by 20%, in a move that could irrecoverably damage local radio news and community reporting, and lead to a quarter of the jobs at BBC Sussex being cut.  The Director General, Mark Thompson launched the Delivering Quality First initiative following last year’s licence fee settlement that resulted in the BBC taking on extra funding responsibilities including the World Service.  In total, the initiative is expected to lead to the loss of about 2,000 jobs across the corporation, and much of the cuts are focused on local radio.

However, in a letter to the Director General, the local MP has questioned the need for such a drastic cut to local radio and believes that cuts should be found elsewhere.  The MP has found information showing that:

  • In one twelve month period, the BBC spent £8.23million on consultants
  • The BBC employs over 340 staff earning over £100,000 a year (up 17 on last year)
  • The BBC employs over 1,000 staff earning over £70,000 a year
  • One Match of the Day host gets £40,000 an episode
  • Senior managers receive a car allowance even if they cannot drive, estimated to cost in total £3.27million per year
  • The Director General, the Director of BBC People and Chief Financial Officer have a combined remuneration package worth over £1.5million per year

Norman says:

“As with many organisations, in these tough economic times the BBC has to reduce spending, but I really question how they are going about it.  5.5million of the 7.5million people who listen to radio only listen to BBC, yet it is radio that the BBC is targeting for cuts.  I am sure the average listener would agree that first they should start by addressing the haemorrhaging of money on the top management and presenters’ remuneration packages, before they even think about touching the extremely valuable local radio services, which encourage a sense of local community.  BBC’s top management is simply not on the same wavelength as the BBC’s listeners.”

Lewes’s MP presents Google’s ‘e-town’ award

Local MP, Norman Baker, has today presented Lewes’s e-town award to the Lewes Chamber of Commerce.

The MP is presenting the award after receiving it on behalf of the town at the House of Commons on the 9th of November.  The award was made after Google assessed the strength of growth of online businesses right across the UK.  Out of the 700 towns and cities considered for the award, Lewes received an award after coming fourth in the UK, showing the town’s success at using the internet to promote business growth locally.

Norman says:

“Lewes has always been a forward thinking town and its embracing of the internet and its ability to be a great tool to boost economic growth, the local economy, encourage entrepreneurialism and enable free debate only goes to underline that.  

“I was really pleased to be able to collect the award on behalf of the town, and even more pleased to now be able to present it to the Chamber of Commerce which works hard to promote business growth in the town.”

David Quinn, President of the Chamber of Commerce added:

“I am delighted to receive this award on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and businesses in the town.”

Norman Baker slams Ofcom over 11 digit local calls

Plans announced by Ofcom will require local residents to dial 11 numbers to make a local call in the 01273 code area which includes Lewes and Newhaven. These proposals have been strongly criticised by Lewes MP Norman Baker, who has called them ‘confusing and unnecessary’.

Half of all the calls made in the country are local and any changes will affect both customers and businesses in the 01273 code area. Ofcom plans to remove the ability to make calls locally without dialling the 01273 area code as a means of making more numbers available. There are 57,000 telephone numbers currently not in use and they suggest these could run out as early as 2015.

But in a meeting with Ofcom officials, Mr Baker was surprised to learn that there were 90 phone companies who have been allocated numbers in Brighton and the surrounding area. It is clear that most do not use anything like the range they have been given and he says this is responsible for the shortage.

He also cited the fact he is allocated more numbers than he needs in his constituency office in Lewes and would be happy to have them freed up. Many telephone numbers lie dormant in this way, and he argued that if companies had to pay a small fee or bid for individual telephone numbers they would use them more efficiently.

Norman says:

‘Every time telephone numbers are changed, we are assured that this will be the last time but it never is. Of course telephone numbers are a finite resource but they should be used efficiently and that is not happening at the moment. This is what Ofcom should be sorting out, not making us dial a 11 digit number to order a pizza from down the road. I have asked Ofcom to think again and have put alternatives to them. I will also be contacting the Minister for Communications Ed Vaizey, regarding this matter.’