The BBC spent almost £700,000 on its anniversary half-hour live episode of EastEnders last year.

According to The Independent, a new report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that corporation bosses put aside an extra half a million pounds, more than they would normally, for the 25th anniversary special.

The figures in the report, which look into the way the BBC manage the costs of the soap, also show that nearly £7 million will be spent on the cast this year.

While the numbers showed that the cost of six key dramas, including EastEnders, Doctors, Holby City and Casualty, has decreased by a fifth over the last eight years, the cost per viewer had actually risen by almost nine per cent due to declining audiences.

Casualty is the most expensive drama in the report at 9.4p per viewer, while EastEnders is the cheapest at 3.5p.

Albert Square’s live episode cost a total of £696,000 including the extra £500,000 to fund expenses, such as extra cast and outside broadcast facilities, while Coronation Street’s live episode cost up to £1 million, although it did involve staging a tram crash and using CGI effects.

Figures in the report show the EastEnders overall budget has been reduced by £6 million from six years earlier, although it is still the largest of the six shows under consideration.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The BBC is doing a good job of applying basic financial controls and achieving steady cost reduction across its portfolio of continuing dramas.

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said: “Today’s NAO report shows costs have dropped by 20 per cent but at the same time, audience appreciation has risen considerably. On this basis, it provides excellent value for money for licence fee payers across the UK.”