A view backstage at Beverley Minster

An angry New Year

Neil Pickford seethes.

By the time you read this it will be nearly three months since I last pushed a pew for professional purposes. Hopefully I shall shortly be given a clean bill of health and the opportunity to start rebuilding my muscles for the Minster. It won’t be a minute too soon – I fear that the good influence the old building exerts is wearing thin and will soon be a thing of the past if I don’t start topping up on it pretty darn quickly.

This has became increasingly clear over the last few weeks because my blood pressure has been rising, and it’s not due to the mechanical aid in my chest – the cause is thoughts prompted by one of the most overbearing, pompous, pointless, puerile, inadequate wastes of space and money in Britain, the superfluous mound of mediocrity that is The Right Honourable, The Lord Patten of Barnes.

This puffed-up windbag with a remarkable record of irrelevance is currently the part-time, £110,000 per year chairman of the BBC Trust (among his many other jobs, in all of which I’m sure he performs with equal mental agility). Let’s not forget that this is ‘Poll Tax Patten’ who was also the last governor of Hong Kong followed by an ineffectual, well-paid stint as a European Commissioner.  Baron Prescott of Kingston upon Hull has possibly wasted more public money over the years but Patten is certainly entitled to be spoken of in the same tones of awed amazement for the amount of tax-payers money he’s pointlessly squandered – in the specific case I’m banging on about, TV licence-payers’ money.

His annual income from the BBC is equivalent to all one year’s licence fee income paid by more than 750 households. He gave the short-lived director general George Entwistle – (his own choice – a man who was, to any outside observer, clearly a mediocrity who shouldn’t have been trusted with crossing the road), a marvellous parting gift for failure of £450,000. This sum is the BBC’s annual income from nearly 3,100 homes – or in local terms, roughly one third of all the households in Beverley.

On top of that he has defended a regime of extremely generous pay-off and redundancy payments to senior managers (who were obviously surplus to requirements in the first place) . One, Mark Byford, the former director of journalism, received all the licence fees paid by Bridlington last year while Caroline Thompson, the former chief operating officer at the BBC, was given all the income from Driffield and surrounding villages, merely for failing to become the next Director General. Ah, diddums. And all this in a period when local radio, which many people would regard as a cornerstone of the organisation’s public broadcasting brief, is under constant financial pressure.

The internal inquiries into Jimmy Savile (cost roughly equivalent to the fees from another 6,000 homes) led to various expensive managers (total annual cost equivalent to another 6,000 ) not being fired. These were the same people who, the enquiry concluded, “produced a “critical lack of leadership and co-ordination” at the BBC, which was hampered by internal rivalries and “personal animosity”. There were unnecessary “Chinese Walls”, which meant information was not properly shared.”

And yet they are still in expensive BBC non-jobs.

In their rarefied, privileged and highly protected sector of society these Great High Panjandrums  rarely suffer bad consequences flowing from lousy judgements. The organisation protects them as a group and hides the identify of whoever made the decision.  Yet ifyou or I make a mistake we can’t dodge the shrapnel.  I have been brooding on the deep injustice of it all and have concluded that the next Peasant’s Revolt is long overdue.

And, coincidentally, wasn’t most of the 2012 BBC Christmas output (apart from Doctor Who and repeats of ancient programmes) complete and utter cobblers? I suspect the two issues are related.

Oh dear, I hope the doctor lets me get back to work soon because I don’t like the unforgiving person I’m (re)turning in to. Happy New Year.


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