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Exclusive: BBC defends its dominance over HR directors pay

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With government wanting to approve all public-sector posts on 150,000-plus, HR magazine reveals that top earning public-sector HRDs come from the Beeb.

HR professionals at the BBC are among the highest-paid public-sector HR practitioners in the country, taking 10 out of the first 20 spots in a league table of top HR earners compiled exclusively by HR magazine (see feature p24).

HR magazine sought to discover just how many public-sector HRDs earn more than £100,000 after a Public Accounts Committee report in December recommended all public-sector workers paid this sum should expect to have their salaries opened up to scrutiny, and after it reported concern at the inconsistencies in public-sector pay. It followed the chancellor of the Exchequer's December Pre-Budget Report which proposed that public-sector posts paying more than £150,000 per year should be Treasury-vetted.

Ours is the first attempt at compiling a table of the salaries of top-earning HRDs in the public sector, a list the Government is clearly interested in knowing more about. Nine of the 10 BBC HR professionals in the top 20 earn more than £150,000.

But while HRDs we spoke to welcome more transparency over HR pay, Gillian Hibberd, president of the Public Sector People Managers' Association, said the Government had no right to approve HR salaries beyond £150,000, public sector or not: "Local government is accountable to local politicians, not the Treasury," she said. "Public-sector HRDs have significant responsibilities, and they deserve every penny. Central approval is essentially a pay cap, which would not be a good thing. HR needs to be paid in accordance with its responsibilities, and these will depend on each organisation's own unique circumstances."

Robert Johnston, the BBC's reward director, who is himself above the £150,000 threshold, defended the BBC's dominance in the table, saying: "We're absolutely certain that to get the people we want, we have to pay the salaries we pay."

He added that if the Government did require the disclosure of all public-sector pay over £100,000, it would open a huge can of worms. "That would include practically every organisation that has some sort of public funding; I don't think the Government has any idea just how many public-sector jobs pay £100,000 or more. What will it do with the information?"

Are HR directors worth a £150,000 salary?