Stockport Council wants GMG to rethink office closure

Stockport Council’s leader has written to Press Gazette to protest against the town’s journalists moving to Manchester.

Councillor Dave Goddard, leader of Stockport Council and chair of Stockport economic task force – which includes the chamber of commerce and NHS – said the local paper was “key” to the borough’s success.

This month, Guardian Media Group announced it was cutting 78 jobs in its Greater Manchester division, and closing all the weekly newspaper editorial offices. Some 39 editorial jobs are to go from GMG‘s stable of weekly titles.

That means the Stockport Express will be produced, with fewer staff, seven miles away in Manchester. The paper has a paid-for sale of 14,611 at 46p a copy.

The Stockport office will stay open for advertising staff – but Goddard said that was not good enough.

“We are working in partnership to mitigate the effects of the current economic climate and to boost Stockport’s economy in a wide variety of ways,” he said.

“We believe it is key to the success of our borough that there is a thriving and healthy local media to inform, communicate and challenge the borough, and to provide the opportunity for stimulus of the economy via advertising.

“Under proposed changes, staff numbers will be reduced across all GMG’s local newspapers. Of particular concern to us is that the Stockport Express and Times will be written and edited in Manchester.

“We believe this will reduce the paper’s effectiveness in our Stockport communities. We believe that some editorial should remain alongside the advertising staff who will be retained in Stockport, to ensure that articles written about the borough are written with local knowledge and with authority.

“We are meeting the chief executive officer of GMG Regional Media later this month and we will urge him to reconsider the proposals. I would encourage others to make their views known too.”

GMG’s cuts were also criticised last week by a number of MPs in a House of Commons debate.

Ann Coffey, Labour MP for Stockport, said: “To lose it [the Stockport Express] would be like the town losing its collective memory. I urge the Guardian Media Group to think again.”

Journalists at all GMG’s North West weeklies have also declared a vote of no confidence in owners the Scott Trust.

A spokesman for MEN Media, GMG’s Greater Manchester division, told Press Gazette that, following a revenue slump, cuts were essential if local and regional journalism was to remain viable.

“We are well aware of the importance of our newspapers to the local economy and local democracy, and we want to carry on publishing them,” he said.

“Unfortunately, because of long-term changes in our markets and now the devastating impact of the recession, such changes are unavoidable if these papers are to survive.”

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