In the report into the way the BBC manages its properties, the National Audit Office (NAO) said around 2,900 staff work at Salford although it could house 3,270 staff.
It said: “Information collected by the BBC on entry and exits through security barriers over a four week period in 2014 suggested that no more than 1,690 people were on site at peak times.”
And it continues: “The BBC has incomplete information on how many people work at some buildings, particularly freelancers and casual staff. It has carried out detailed surveys of desk use at several of its main sites.
“However, these survey methods do not necessarily capture the dynamic nature of the business and the need for space. Changing work practices and project teams can quickly lead to changes in use and capacity.
“Flexible working practices mean that staff registered at particular locations can work from other sites or from home, as the BBC’s own work at Salford has illustrated. The BBC informed us that it intends to install a system that will provide it with more accurate information on the number of people using its main sites.”
Updated 4.10pm: A BBC spokesperson has been in touch to point out that today, just over 2900 people are working in Media City. At the time of the survey there were only 2300 located here. By the end of 2015 here will be some 3150 staff based here.
He said:“Our move to MediaCity has been a success and its cost is one of the lowest in the BBC estate. Before the move in 2011, people in the north of England felt they weren’t represented fairly in BBC content compared to the rest of the UK – our research shows this is no longer the case. In addition, the move to Salford allowed the BBC to meet its commitment for the majority of BBC staff to be based outside of London, a year earlier than anticipated.”
The NAO report is also critical of the corporations’ expenditure in London and reveals that the cost of running its redeveloped New Broadcasting House headquarters is three times higher than the UK average and almost double that of comparable central London buildings.
The BBC Trust value for money chair Nick Prettejohn responded saying: ““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.”