The Grey Cardigan 07.04.06

ALTHOUGH THE bean-counters never seem to agree, awards dos have always been a valuable way to reward hard-working staff.

So it costs a grand to take the boys (and girls) on a day out. So what? In my experience, managements gets that investment back 10 times over during the other 364 days of the year. And the gossip and scandal that these away-days generate keeps the rest of the newsroom entertained for a month. (I must tell you some time about the circulation executive who couldn’t stifle his entrepreneurial instincts and took over the running of the tea trolley on the train. And the buffet steward’s uniform.)

Unfortunately, that’s all changed for us Evening Beasters. The dead hand of the finance department has such a grip on the petty cash tin that we didn’t even enter any awards this year, never mind attend them. So congratulations are due to Newsquest, who bravely soldiered on with its group awards, despite only making £700 million profits last year.

Not only that, winners of certain individual categories at last week’s editorial and newspaper sales awards were delighted to receive an envelope containing a cheque along with their certificates.

However, delight soon turned to bemusement at the strange amount of money awarded to them — £134 and some loose change.

The reason for the odd amount eventually became clear. The men in suits had deducted tax and National Insurance from the £200 prizes. No, really.

SO WHEN times are tough, there is surely no better place to be than working for a family-owned company.

These custodians of the local press are in it for the long game, aren’t they? They know how to ride the cycle of boom and bust.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. My snout at the family-owned Express and Star in Wolverhampton tells me of grief over the funding of a new car park. The problems apparently began last year when engineers discovered rotting iron girders in the newspaper’s concrete multi-storey car park in Wolverhampton.

The company put a memo out banning staff from parking on the bottom tiers, but allowing them to park on the upper floors. Yes, you read that right first time.

Repairing the car park is said to be costing £5 million, and some editorial dissidents see a link between that expenditure, a freeze on recruitment and a programme of redundancies that is currently underway.

Now you can’t seriously tell me that the enlightened Graham family (estimated by The Sunday Times rich list to have a personal fortune of £125 million) would seek to fund the new car park out of staff budgets? It’s obviously just an unfortunate coincidence.

SPONSORSHIP didn’t bother me when it was the local bookshop offering prizes for our crossword winners, though it certainly did when a firm of cosmetic surgeons blagged their way onto our health pages for 3p a centimetre.

Still, it’s good to see that someone’s got it right. The mainstay of ITV’s morning offering, The Jeremy Kyle Show, is populated by the most horrendous collection of shysters, wasters, drunks, thugs, thieves, junkies, serial fathers and baby-machine mums you’re ever likely to see outside of a Liverpool labour exchange. They’d make Jerry Springer flinch.

It is therefore entirely appropriate that The Jeremy Kyle Show is sponsored by Learn Direct, the Government agency that teaches scrotes to tie their own shoelaces.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at

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