A month after making five redundancies in Bolton, Bury and Leigh, Newsquest has announced further cost-cutting that it is understood will see the Bury Times office close and the editor made redundant.
In October, staff at the Bolton News, Bury Times, Bury Journal and Leigh Journal were told that five jobs were to be axed, due to ‘continued difficult trading conditions” and a loss of advertising.
Press Gazette has learned that staff were informed yesterday that reporters from the Bury Times office, which will close in January, are to move to the Bolton office and reporters will work across the Bolton News, Bury Times and Prestwich and Whitefield Guide.
Bury Times editor Carla Flynn is understood to have been made redundant, a deputy news editor at Bolton is to go. a reporter from either Bolton of Bury will be made redundant and casual sub editors’ contracts will be terminated.
Management began a 30-day consultation period with staff yesterday, with a deadline of next Wednesday for applications for voluntary redundancy. One member of staff told Press Gazette: “Morale is at an all-time low.”
A Newsquest spokeswoman declined to comment on the changes in Bolton, Bury or Leigh, but confirmed that the Leigh Journal would be transferred from the Bolton group into the Warrington Guardian series.
NUJ Assistant Organiser Jenny Lennox said: ‘Given that just two months ago Newsquest North West management told us that there were no plans for further closures, it’s no wonder journalists feel betrayed.
‘Just as one wave of redundancies is completed, managers are now looking to make further changes to editorial workforces to ensure they can continue to deliver big profits to Gannett.
“Local communities are being abandoned by Newsquest. The removal of almost all editorial staff from Bury to Bolton means that after 155 years the Bury Times will have virtually no editorial presence left in the town.”
A staff memo from management, seen by PressGazette.co.uk, has outlined further restructuring at Newsquest, including the proposed closure 10 weekly free newspapers.
They are: The Blackpool Citizen; The Preston Citizen; The Lancaster Citizen; The Westmorland Messenger; The Congleton Guardian; The Macclesfield Community News; The Hale Community News; The Knutsford Community News; The Lancashire Auto Exchange and The Manchester & Merseyside Auto Exchange.
The monthly Wilmslow and Bramhall Community News is also facing the axe.
Regional managing director Chris Hughes told staff that the plan for the north-west titles is to create three regional editorial production hubs that will be responsible for all sub-editing work, with newspaper planning centralised at Blackburn.
He said that the business ‘remains totally committed to publishing high quality, relevant and entertaining newspapers, both in print and online, that aim to be at the heart of their respective communities”, but added that the company believed it ‘can achieve this with greater efficiency’
Hughes claimed that the newsgathering operation ‘in most cases’will not be affected but that the proposal would affect the roles of the individual editors of all weekly newspapers, along with all sub-editors.
‘The proposals are in no way intended to be a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the staff involved,” he told staff.
“The overall programme of restructuring is necessary to safeguard the future prospects of the company; the excellent products it produces and the hard working and professional staff it employs.”
Lennox said: “It’s simply not possible to believe that these decisions have been taken with the long-term future of the papers in mind. For example, if you’re genuinely committed to quality local journalism rather than short-term profit targets, where is the logic of moving your sports editor more than 50 miles south from Kendal to Blackburn?
‘There’s no long-term strategy in any of these announcements. It’s all about looking for quick-fix solutions to help shore up the Gannett share price. Management simply don’t seem to care about how their decisions will impact on the relationship between the papers and the communities they serve.”
Elsewhere in the group, Newsquest is planning to cut at least eight jobs across its Worcestershire and Herefordshire titles.
Newsquest is also considering closing down its £17m purpose built printing facility in Bolton, which prints the daily Bolton Evening News and Lancashire Evening Telegraph, along with 17 other titles in Lancashire and Cheshire.
In a separate statement Hughes said that Newsquest’s other print facilities will be able to take on the weekly titles and the dailies will be ‘printed outside of the group.”