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October 14, 2015updated 15 Oct 2015 4:46pm

Newsquest boardroom pay rises above £1m for first time since 2001 as profits fall

By William Turvill

Pay for Newsquest directors rose above £1m for the first time since 2001 last year despite falling profits at the regional press giant.

Directors’ salaries, taxable benefits, performance-related payments and pension scheme contributions totalled £1,060,000 in 2014, according to the publisher’s annual report.

This figure is up from £928,000 in 2013 and, according to Press Gazette analysis, is the highest figure for boardroom pay at the group since 2001. 

In 2014, Newsquest’s highest-paid executive –  chief executive Henry Faure Walker – had total pay of just over £400,000, including pension, perks and bonuses, which is down from the £610,000 earned by his predecessor Paul Davidson in 2013.

Performance-related pay across Newsquest’s nine directors who served during 2014 totalled £338,000.

In 2014 operating profit fell to £51.3m from £52.8m in 2013 and turnover shrank from £288.6m to £279.3m over the same period.

The accounts also show Newsquest cut its staff costs by £5.2m on 2013, reduced its headcount from 4,225 to 3,997. In 2014, it recorded having 1,369 editorial staff, down from 1,386.

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Over the summer, Press Gazette conducted an anonymous survey of more than 700 journalists. It found that Newsquest journalists rated their jobs lower than any other of the main regional newspaper publishers.

The National Union of Journalists condemned Newsquest for leaving staff “on the margins of living decently” while making a profit of more than £50m.

Chris Morley, Newsquest’s NUJ group coordinator, said: "These accounts mask the real burning issue in Newsquest: that of pay and the fairness of pay. 

“We have been used to seeing the obscenity of previous chief executive Paul Davidson luxuriating in a hugely inflated pay packet while his staff were left on the margins of living decently.

“In Henry Faure Walker's first full year at the helm, we see on the surface his base pay has been slashed by a third but with a slight of hand, magically 'performance related bonuses' turn that around.

He added: "This is still a very profitable company whose employees are on their knees with year after endless year without a pay rise.

“This has to stop in 2016 and staff must share in the one-sided gain the company is reaping from massive productivity increases coming through the grim conveyor belt of job losses.

“We call on Henry Faure Walker, now the company is freed of its debt burden yoke following the demerger of the US parent company, to start reviving the crushed morale of his staff with immediate pay boosts."

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "These figures show up the thin tales of hardship spun by local Newsquest bean counters for what they really are.

“It is journalists and other low paid workers who have paid the price for these gains – with their jobs and with consecutive years of pay freezes.

“Meanwhile quality suffers but readers are not only expected to fill the papers with their own free content but then buy it back. It's simply not a sustainable strategy."

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