Age campaigners blasted the BBC today after hundreds of its employees were given 20 per cent pay rises in a move costing licence fee payers nearly £8million.
Some 1,145 staff at the corporation received salary increases of at least 10 per cent last year, while 256 of these received more than 20 per cent.
The average rise across the workforce was £6,980, costing licence fee payers an extra £7.9million – enough to pay for TV licences for 51,000 pensioners.
National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt said the pay rises were ‘despicable’ and ‘over the top’ amid plans to charge the elderly for their licences.
Hundreds of BBC employees have been given 20 per cent pay rises in a move costing licence fee payers nearly £8million. New Broadcasting House in London is pictured last month
She told MailOnline today: ‘I’m a trade unionist, and I would always argue that people should be paid the (fair) rate for the job.
‘But if you look at the majority of people, they are lucky if they get a 1 or 2 per cent pay rise. Twenty per cent seems over the top. It doesn’t make sense to me.’
Speaking about her concerns over ending free TV licences for the elderly, Ms Shortt added: ‘We are concerned about the people who are just above pension credit rate.
‘They will find it hard, and that then pushes them down into poverty – and Age UK think they could be as many as 50,000.’
Ms Shortt added that she is urging people to ‘fill the email inbox of Boris Johnson to breaking point’ in an attempt to get the decision to end the free licences overturned.
(From left) Walter Scott, 68, Eric Harvey, 90, and Hugh Rafferty, 81, protest at Broadcasting House in Belfast on June 25 after the BBC said it would stop free TV licences for the elderly
She also told the Daily Express: ‘It’s an insult. This kind of treatment towards the older generation is despicable – it’s like grabbing money from the least able to pay.’
The pay figures obtained by The Times related to 19,000 staff employed by the BBC’s main public service arm and exclude the enormous bill for on-air talent.
The corporation’s most recent ‘rich list’ revealed spending on actors and presenters earning more than £150,000 rose from £19.8million to £21.8million last year.
The BBC has insisted cutting pay would not free up enough money to continue free licences for the elderly – and it would instead need to close BBC Two and BBC Four.
Demonstrators protest outside BBC Broadcasting House at Portland Place in London on June 21 over the corporation’s move to means-test the TV licence for older people from June 2020
A BBC spokesman said: ‘While there are strict rules around any pay increases it’s only right that when people are promoted or take on extra responsibilities it’s reflected in their salary.
‘Just as at any organisation, there will be a number of cases where people are promoted to a significantly more senior or prominent role or take on a wide range of extra responsibilities.’
The BBC has footed the bill for 3.7million older people to receive free licences since funding negotiations with the Government in 2015.
Previously the benefit was paid for by the Department for Work and Pensions. It now claims the £750million annual cost is unaffordable.
Last month the charity Age UK warned the BBC’s plan to charge over-75s was a ‘slow-motion car crash’.
It said many pensioners, including those who find it difficult to dress, bathe and get out of bed, will struggle with the procedure of paying for a licence – or even proving they are eligible for a free one.
Only over-75s who receive pension credit will continue to get a free licence from next June.
The BBC’s director of policy, Clare Sumner, has said the corporation will carry out home visits to over-75s to help with the process.