Two closures and 95 jobs axed at GMG south regionals

The Guardian Media Group has confirmed it is making significant cuts at its Surrey and Berkshire regional newspapers, with 95 jobs, four offices and two newspapers set to go.

As part of the proposed changes, announced to staff today, the five-days-a-week Reading Evening Post will be cut back to just two days a week.

In total, 95 jobs will go, with 35 lost from the 110-strong editorial team. Cuts will be made across all editorial divisions.

GMG said this afternoon it expects compulsory redundancies to be “unavoidable”.

The Reading Evening Post – a morning paper printed five days a week – will switch to two days a week. In the second half of 2008, its circulation was 12,879.

The Esher News and Mail, a paid-for weekly, will close, as will the Aldershot Mail, also a paid-for weekly.

The titles’ circulation in the second half of 2008 were 5,173 and 8,320 respectively.

Two offices in Aldershot will close, as will offices in Esher and Wokingham. All staff will work from existing buildings in Reading and Guildford.

Also, print runs of the group’s freesheets will be reduced.

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

“By far the largest cost within these businesses is salaries, and while we have examined every option short of job losses, it has become clear that it is impossible to bring stability to S&B Media and MEN Media without substantially reducing the number of people we employ.

“We expect approximately 95 positions to be made redundant across S&B Media, and 150 across MEN Media.

“While we will seek volunteers for redundancy wherever possible, we anticipate that compulsory redundancies will be unavoidable. Those people affected will be offered significantly enhanced severance terms.”

NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said: “It is deeply worrying that in Reading the commitment to local news is being cut from a full week of papers to two days a week.

“In Aldershot a paper and two offices have closed. The news hasn’t stopped happening and the job cuts are unnecessary.

“Local people will be denied the information they need to keep the community together and scrutinise the local authorities.

“Instead of supporting the communities the company claims to serve it is hitting the economy with job cuts.

“Once again journalists are paying the price for the short sighted policies of newspaper managements.”

GMG Regional Media is expected to see profits fall by 85 per cent in this financial year, with worse to follow in 2009/2010.

Yesterday, GMG’s MEN Media announced 78 journalists would go at the Manchester Evening News and sister weeklies.

It is also closing offices in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford and Wilmslow.

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