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February 6, 2017

Regional press giant Newsquest cuts turnover from £279m to £1m under new ‘opaque’ accounts system

By Freddy Mayhew

The National Union of Journalists has asked Newsquest to clarify why hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue has been wiped from its accounts as it turned an operating loss of £47m for 2015.

The union has said the publisher’s accounts for the year, which it says were filed four months late, also seem to show more than 3,500 staff cut from its books compared to the previous year.

Newsquest, which is owned by US publishing giant Gannett, has moved to a new accounting model that it claims allows it to take “advantage of disclosure exemptions allowed under this standard”.

Under the old accounting model Newsquest reported turnover of £279m and operating profits of £51m for 2014. Under the new system it reported turnover of just over £1m and an operating loss of £47m for 2015.

In 2014 Newsquest said it had a total of 3,997 staff (of which 1,369 were editorial), while in 2015 the total is given as 393 staff (of which 149 are editorial).

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “We are astonished that the company has moved to make its accounts even more opaque and less relevant when long-suffering staff deserve far better.

“As it is, missing the formal deadline to file the accounts by four months has cost the company thousands in fines – money that is desperately needed to invest in starved editorial resources.”

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The 2015 accounts show that the company’s “highest paid director”, presumably chief executive Henry Faure Walker, received total pay of £591,804, up from £401,505 (for nine months’ work) the year before .

Faure Walker’s pension contributions were set at £18,252 for 2015, up from £13,240 on the year before. He also received “one-off relocation costs” of £47,000 in 2015.

Newquest said last month that Faure Walker had not taken a pay rise in 2016 or this year.

 

Morley said: “The chief executive’s pay is incredibly high given the significantly smaller scale of the group and the huge amount of additional share options flowing his way.

“I’m sure the many journalists in the north of England and elsewhere in the country, whose jobs were destroyed when the work moved to Newport subbing hub, would have seriously considered moving if they had been given the relocation allowance made available to the chief executive.”

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