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London Assembly calls on mayor to intervene in Newsquest south London dispute

Members of the London Assembly  -  © nuj

2 November 2016

The London Assembly has unanimously passed a motion calling on the capital's mayor, Sadiq Khan, to engage with the NUJ and Newsquest over a dispute following the company's decision to put nearly all the newsroom staff at risk of redundancy.

Since the announcement eight members of staff were made redundant and six resigned.

The motion said that local newspapers played a vital role in the democratic process and to "lose or greatly compromise the ability of newsroom staff to continue to serve the public in this way would be regrettable. London needs quality local newspapers to ensure democratic scrutiny, accountability, and to encourage an informed and active citizenship – these proposals do not provide that."

Fiona Twycross, Labour chair of the Assembly's Economic Committee, described the motion as "groundhog day", as the AMs had passed a similar motion last year, but now the situation was even worse.  She said a vibrant local media was vital for the capital and the depletion of staff put at threat the viability of these newspapers and that it wasn’t just Newsquest titles that were under threat.

Labour AM and chair of the environment committee, Leonie Cooper, made the point that local papers were where many national newspaper journalists learned their trade and name checked a number of journalists who had worked on Merton and Wandsworth titles who had gone on to national titles. She commended journalists for sitting through many meetings so that local people could learn what their elected representatives were saying.

Keith Prince, Conservative AM for Havering and Redbridge, said he had found most of the local press to be honourable and that they built up good relationships with local politicians. He said that while the mayor did not have direct influence on the matter, he could use his powers of influence to get both parties – the union and Newsquest management – together to discuss the situation.

Green party AM Sian Berry said the value of a strong local newspaper sector was that it was able to give local communities a voice and to champion their local campaigns.

The motion read:
“This Assembly is deeply concerned about Newsquest South London’s plans to significantly reduce its workforce, and at a time when resources for news provision across the capital are already considerably stretched.

"The newsroom restructure will result in just 12 reporters covering news, sport and leisure across 11 newspapers and eight websites under a single content editor. Six reporters have resigned over the plans and others face redundancy.

!In addition to the reduction of the number of newsroom staff, the working conditions of those that remain with Newsquest will be severely compromised. This includes the following newspapers: The Croydon Guardian, Sutton Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Wimbledon Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian, Balham and Tooting Guardian, Mitcham and Morden Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Surrey Comet, Elmbridge Comet, the Richmond & Twickenham Times and The News Shopper - for Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.

"This Assembly believes that newsroom staff across the city provide an essential service informing the public and raising their awareness of key issues in their local areas. They serve as a valuable means of engaging individuals with the democratic process, informing Londoners of the work we do here at the London Assembly. To lose or greatly compromise the ability of newsroom staff to continue to serve the public in this way would be regrettable. London needs quality local newspapers to ensure democratic scrutiny, accountability, and to encourage an informed and active citizenship – these proposals do not provide that.

"This Assembly calls on the Mayor to continue to engage with the NUJ and Newsquest in this dispute to find a solution that maintains the quality of the south London press publications, and commit to look at ways in which local newspaper provision can be supported in London.”

Tags: , london assembly, newsquest, newsquest south london, redundancies, mayor, sadiq khan