Taxpayers are footing a bill of nearly £1 million so that civil servants can listen to the radio at work.
Government departments and quangos have been using public money to pay music royalties to allow staff to listen to music in the office.
Some have paid royalties for the banal music played when callers ring switchboards and are put on hold – even though royalty-free music is available.
Since 2009, £848,904 has been spent, according to figures uncovered by The Mail on Sunday using Freedom of Information laws.
For any workplace where music is played, a licence must be obtained from both the PRS, which collects royalties on behalf of songwriters, and the PPL, which covers both artists and record labels.
Last night, John O’Connell, director of Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘People will be furious that their cash is being wasted on listening to the radio and hold music.
Taxes are for essential services, not so civil servants can hum along to Miley Cyrus. Hold music drives people up the wall – if they knew they were paying for it they’d be even angrier.’
The highest spender is the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The agency has paid out an £552,012 in royalties since 2009 so the radio can be played in its 299 driving test centres, 87 testing stations and one enforcement office.Another big spender is Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, which has paid out £141,632.81 since 2009 for hold music, but says it will cut the bill.
Media watchdog Ofcom, which has paid £38,655.57 over the same period, switched to royalty-free music last year, reducing its spend to £681.
Since 2009, the Ministry of Defence has paid £73,852.44 in royalties, the Home Office has spent £22,153.26 since 2010, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has paid £9,076.34 since 2009, and Ofgem has splashed £8,410.36 since 2009.
A DVSA spokesman said: ‘Listening to the radio helps to keep our examiners up to date with local news, traffic and weather conditions, which can all affect the delivery of our services. It also gives driving test candidates a more relaxing environment in which to wait.’