Local MPs urge GMG to rethink Manchester job cuts

Six North West MPs have written a joint letter to The Guardian urging its parent company to rethink plans to cut 150 jobs at the Manchester Evening News and its associated weekly titles.

In a joint letter to the paper on Saturday, the MPs said they were deeply concerned by the proposal, first revealed by Press Gazette last week, to close the district offices of 22 weekly papers.

About 150 jobs are to go – including 78 in editorial – and GMG has warned that compulsory cuts are unavoidable.

The letter was signed by three Labour MPs: Ann Coffey (Stockport), Andrew Gwynne (Denton) and Tom Levitt (High Peak).

Tory MP for Macclesfield Nicholas Winterton and two Liberal Democrat MPs Mark Hunter (Cheadle) and Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) also signed.

“Local newspapers play an essential role at the heart of their communities and are written by a group of dedicated journalists who live and breathe their town,” the letter read.

“Local papers strengthen local democracy and community life and provide a forum for individuals and organisations.

“Long-time Guardian editor CP Scott said famously that a newspaper is ‘much more than a business’. It has a ‘moral as well as a material existence’.

“Sixty local newspapers closed last year. We call on Guardian Media Group to rethink its proposals.”

In a follow-up letter published in the Guardian this morning, Manchester Evening News father of chapel Judy Gordon welcomed the MPs’ intervention.

“The MPs rightly fear for the threats to democracy and the social fabric of communities,” she said.

“What they fail to mention is that GMG gave staff just 13 days to volunteer for redundancy or face being selected for compulsory job loss; 13 days to make possibly the hardest decision of their lives.

“This is from a company which has in recent years seemed to behave increasingly like ‘any other business’ – look at the huge salaries and bonuses awarded to its executives, while the Guardian itself loses millions of pounds.

“This should not be the behaviour of the parent company of the world’s leading liberal voice, the paper I have read for 40 years and the company I have been employed by for nearly 30.

“Guardian readers will undoubtedly be shocked that GMG could behave in such a brutal way.

“CP Scott wanted his ideals protected and preserved – but not like this. It is not too late for GMG to rethink its plans.”

GMG’s announcement of job cuts in Manchester was followed a day later by a further announcement at its Surrey and Berkshire regional newspapers.

The cuts include turning the Reading Evening Post into a twice-weekly title, the closure of four offices, two local paid-for weeklies and the axing of 95 jobs.

In a statement, GMG said: “The major changes announced at MEN Media and S&B Media are designed to protect the businesses and their journalism for the future through a new model with significantly lower fixed costs.”

GMG is expected to announce an 85 per cent drop in full-year profits at its regional newspaper division when it publishes its 2008/09 annual report this summer.

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