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Northants evenings set to move to overnight printing

Journalists in Northamptonshire have expressed dismay after managers unveiled plans for the county’s two evening papers to move to overnight printing.

Both the Kettering-based Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and the Northampton Chronicle and Echo are set to become morning titles as a result of proposals announced yesterday.

Northamptonshire Newspapers, which publishes both titles, has confirmed that five van drivers’ jobs and one editorial post are at risk as a result of the planned changes, but it is thought that up to 70 printing jobs in Northampton will also be affected.

Printing of the two titles is set to move to Peterborough with the closure of the existing Northampton Web print operation at the company’s Upper Mounts site.

Journalists are now being formally consulted about the changes which will mean new shift patterns for most reporters and subs.

One reporter affected by the plans told HoldtheFrontPage: “We are all really, really shocked. It’s a big blow for our readers who like getting their paper with today’s news not yesterday’s. It’s a real shame.”

There is no union representation for staff at the two Johnston Press-owned titles.

Telegraph editor Jeremy Clifford and Chronicle and Echo editor David Summers will lead the consultation on the proposed changes, which is due to be concluded by 29 August.

In a statement issued to staff yesterday, Northamptonshire Newspapers general manager Simon Kennedy said: “Following a detailed review of publishing operations it is proposed to restructure editorial, distribution and certain field-based newspaper sales functions.

“It is anticipated that the proposed changes will deliver newspaper sales benefits and enable efficiencies in printing and distribution.

“Specifically it is proposed that both daily titles will be printed overnight in Peterborough with editorial shift patterns and newsroom structures in both Northampton and Kettering being adjusted to accommodate adjusted file deadlines.

“In distrubution, it is proposed to adjust shift patterns to facilitate overnight distribution of both titles into retail.

“Prior to any implementation, we will consult extensively on an individual and collective basis and we have commenced this process today with those individuals affected.

“In the event this proposal goes ahead, the company will endeavour to minimise the impact of the proposal through voluntary redundancy to alternative positions within the company and the JP Group.”

In a press statement issued to HTFP last night, Mr Kennedy added: “As well as enabling efficiency gains to be realised across the Group these proposals also mark a significant strategic shift in our publishing strategy.

“The company remains totally committed to providing readers with highly relevant local content, delivered in a range of print and digital formats, when and where they want it and these proposals are consistent with this objective.”

The company has so far refused to give any official confirmation of the numbers of printing jobs affected. Today’s Chronicle and Echo carries a story saying only that “a number of jobs” are at risk.

A Johnston Press statement said: “Following a detailed review of the Printing Press Operations within Johnston Press it is proposed to close the printing operation in Northampton and to reduce the printing operation in Peterborough.”

The presses in Upper Mounts are used by 38 other Johnston Press titles as well as the two evenings, printing more than one million copies a week.

Printing moved there in May 1978 from the Chronicle and Echo’s old offices in the town’s Market Square. Around £20m was spent upgrading the plant between 2000 and 2002.