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Assembly members condemn South Wales job cuts

Welsh Assembly members are being urged to back a statement condemning proposed job cuts at a series of South Wales weeklies.

As reported on HoldtheFrontPage last week, eight jobs including two editors positions are set to go at the Trinity Mirror-owned Valleys titles.

Three branch offices – in Ebbw Vale, Neath and Aberdare – will close and it is proposed that there will be just one editor for the Merthyr Express, Rhymney Valley Express and Gwent Gazette, one for the Rhondda Leader and Pontypridd Observer, one for the Cynon Valley Leader, and a fourth for the Glamorgan Gazette and Neath and Port Talbot Guardians.

The closure of the three branch offices will lead to the loss of two senior reporters’ posts as well as two editors. The company is also planning to cut the number of production journalists in the main Cardiff newsroom by two and the number of managers in the newsroom by one.

Now two Assembly members – South Wales Central’s Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood and Blaenau Gwent Independent member Trish Law – have instigated an assembly motion or “Statement of Opinion” condemning the plans.

Ms Wood said: “The loss of offices in Ebbw Vale, Neath and Aberdare is bound to have a knock-on effect on coverage. Many people pop into the office with stories for the paper but will not be able to do so in future.”

Ms Law said the cuts amounted to a huge blow to democracy. “Without a strong and broad newspaper and media industry in Wales there cannot be the debate, scrutiny and accountability of politics and other things that make up news in Wales,” she said.

“Weekly newspapers are read avidly by hundreds of thousands of people in Wales. They are the lifeblood of the community as well as the industry. Pulling out of communities like Ebbw Vale, Neath and Aberdare is no way to repay the loyalty of generations of readers.”

A Statement of Opinion – similar to a Commons’ early day motion – is a way for Assembly Members to register their concern about issues. The more AMs who subscribe, the more political weight it carries in the Assembly.

It reads: “This Assembly believes the proposed closure by Media Wales of weekly newspaper offices in Aberdare, Ebbw Vale and Neath and the associated job losses are a retrograde step that will lead to a reduction in the quality and breadth of local newspaper coverage.”

The company has begun a 30-day consultation with staff affected by the announcement but the AMs are not confident management will be swayed from pursuing the cutbacks.

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said the company was making no further comment on its plans at this stage. Last week it said the proposals had been made “in the light of the current economic climate.”


Vic (23/11/2008 17:45:38)
Seem to remember some years ago Welsh Assembly summoning TMR staff to appear before it over concerns about job cuts and monopoly. Should be called to account again. Cannot wait to see the supposed new daily business paper starting in a few months following meeting of investors next month to offer some competition.