Archive for the 'Pay Freeze' Category

09
Mar
09

the audit commission gives council top marks for losing £10 million

'Rewarding failure'

'Rewarding failure'

Council leader Iain Malcolm Miss Piggy and the borough’s Dominatrix, Irene Lucas might want to put their celebrations on hold following last week’s announcement by the Audit Commission that South Tyneside Council is rated a 4 star authority.

Mr Monkey has learned that the Audit Commission and it’s inspectors have become a laughing stock after they announced that Cambridge City Council won top marks for sound financial management and value for money – despite investing £9 million in Icelandic banks and a potential loss of £618,000 on Cambridge Folk Festival ticket sales.

The top score of four marks was awarded by the Audit Commission for the council’s use of resources and it was one of the 13 top performers in the country.

The award focused on strategic financial management, sound governance, effective financial reporting and giving taxpayers value for money.

Council leader Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith said: “The Audit Commission is aware of the financial issues in relation to the Icelandic deposits, which affect many councils, and the Folk Festival tickets. I can’t say to what extent they have been taken into account.”

He added: “I’m very pleased the successful way which we run things in Cambridge has been recognised by the Audit Commission. This endorses the recent survey results that showed that residents in Cambridge rated the city council as providing value for- money services at a higher level than other districts in the county.”

At the recent budget setting meeting, Cllr Lewis Herbert, Labour group leader, likened the Liberal Democrats’ management of council finances to a “road crash” with Cllr Nimmo- Smith at the wheel.

He said the Icelandic investment and Folk Festival losses, after an internet ticket sales company went into liquidation, were “self-inflicted”. He said he was surprised the council still received a four-star rating.

He added: “Losing £9 million in Icelandic investments and over £1 million in interest and the Folk Festival tickets represents a shocking failure of the council’s control systems.”

For the second year running, the finance and value for money element of the inspection gave the county council the top score of four.

Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “I am delighted that our inspection found that the way we manage our budget and spend council taxpayers’ money is of the highest order. We continue to work within an extremely tight financial climate but this score shows we are among the best councils in the country when it comes to financial management.”

These weaknesses are now most evident. For a Council to be declared “excellent” in the same week that it cuts services and raises taxes, and in the same year that it slashes staff pay, is crazy.

The Council have released a special issue of their staff newsletter to congratulate everyone on the achievement.

At the top of the list of high performing services are the Revenues and Benefits service, who deal with Council Tax payments and the administration of benefits to the needy. They too have received a top 4 star rating and yet a mixture of bad laws, bad government and crazy local decision making has seen many of the staff in that department lose a crushingly large proportion of their salary this year.

There’s nothing about this in the congratulatory press releases issued by the Council, the Audit Commission and the government.

Mr Monkey can’t help wondering what South Tyneside is hiding?

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04
Feb
09

Sub Editors Jobs To Go

It seems the owners of the Shields Gazette,  Johnston Press are continuing to push through thier controversial centralisation agenda in an effort to drive down costs and reduce the number of staff employed on individual titles.

This time Johnston Press is targeting sub-editing and picture desk management at its North West titles – with the potential loss of 12 jobs.

The North West is the third area, after the Midlands and Northern Ireland, where Johnston Press has announced centralisation. Staff were told last Thursday, and meetings were ongoing on Friday. The plans – subject to consultation – would see sub-editing at Chorley, Garstang, Burnley and Wigan moving to Preston, home of the Lancashire Evening Post, with the loss of four jobs.

Sub-editing in Lancaster and Morecambe would move to Blackpool, with six jobs lost but three created, giving a net loss of three.

Five picture desk editors from the region would have to apply for two jobs in Preston, and two photographer roles would also go, bringing the total job losses to 12. Titles affected would include the Burnley Express, the Chorley Guardian, and Morecambe’s The Visitor.

Johnston Press has recently announced centralisation in the Midlands, with 49 potential job losses, and Northern Ireland, with 11 job losses. In the Midlands, the National Union of Journalists is proposing an alternative restructuring. In Northern Ireland, staff at the Derry Journal have balloted for strike action.

When the centralising plans were announced, Johnston Press’s chief operating officer Danny Cammiade said, “Johnston Press is a newspaper group that bases itself on its localness.”

Unfortunately this will come as no comfort to the sub editors at the Gazette who are likely to lose their jobs when the centralisation programme reaches the North East later this year and perhaps now’s the time to look elsewhere.

Mr Monkey has heard that STCentral TV, South Tyneside’s rapidly growing internet TV channel is expanding it’s news operation and is currently recruiting experienced journalists, especially those with knowledge of sub editing – so what are you waiting for?

30
Jan
09

Gazette Set To Enter Partnership With Council

Judging by the quality of yesterday’s toilet paper, the Shields Gazette, it seems times are hard. 

Owners Johnston Press are concerned about falling circulation, declining advertising revenues and this has inevitably led to speculation as to the long term future of the paper. They’ve already imposed a pay freeze on staff, offered staff voluntary redundancy and have consigned the Jarrow and Hebburn edition to the dustbin – leaving only a single South Shields edition. Despite these measures it seems the owners want more.

This morning there is fevered speculation that a number of proof readers are to be offered early retirement on the grounds of ill health. Apparently they’re suffering from poor eye sight which probably explains why the Gazette has so many mistakes in it.

No one was available to comment at Johnston Press headquarters in Edinburgh but Mr Monkey was able to speak to the editor of the Gazette.

Papa John Szymanski said,

“I would like to thank our proof readers for their dedication over the years and wish them well in their retirement.

We will not be replacing them as we have decided to expand our partnership with South Tyneside Council and I am delighted to announce that from 1st February the council’s Communication Department will be taking on the role of proof reading, censorship, design and final editing. This way I won’t have to spend so much time in the town hall and on the phone to my paymaster, council leader Iain Malcolm.

This is a partnership made in heaven, the council gets what it wants – total control of the Gazette and I get to do even less work than I do now and have first choice on all the leftovers at the council’s buffets. Iain has even promised that sausage rolls will be on every council buffet menu from February 1st.”

Mr Monkey reckons this probably explains yesterday’s fuck up where the same article advertising a ward surgery appeared on pages 13 and 45. Although whoever was responsible must have had a sense of humour because the picture they used of Ugly Betty, aka councillor McMillan did her now favours. It seems she’s piled on the beef or her face is swollen form some other activity – when did the Ark Royal arrive?

Either way she’s one hell of an ugly fucker and Mr Monkey reckons he’ll be quids in if he takes her trick or treating next Halloween – the folks on the Lawe Top would give you anything as long as they didn’t have to open the door to Ugly Betty.

02
Jan
09

Gazette Imposes Pay Freeze

The Gazette’s long term future may be in doubt after it’s parent company imposed a pay freeze on all it’s staff by deferring next year’s basic salary reviews for six months – the company claims that the salary reviews are being deferred a result of the continued severe downturn in advertising.

However, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) accused the company of making its employees “pay for management failure” and “reneging on a number of two- and three-year pay deals that have already been agreed”.

The company’s chief executive, Tim Bowlder said, “Regrettably, in the light of falling revenues and continued uncertainty, this decision is necessary to help safeguard the future of our companies.”

“In six months’ time, we hope our operating companies will be in a better position to determine the impact of the recession and to decide whether or not a salary increase can be afforded. Over the few next weeks, our company [managing directors] will be holding meetings with our employees and trade union representatives to explain the decision and discuss how it impacts local agreements.”

In November, the company announced that revenue from property advertising had plummeted by nearly 50% year on year since the end of August, as the effects of the latest financial crisis hit home.

During the same period employment ads were down by 32.1% year on year across the group, while motoring ads were down 24.3% and display ads down 12.1%.

The NUJ issued a strongly worded statement accusing the company of “appalling financial mismanagement”.

“Our members simply don’t accept that they have to pay the price for corporate failure. It’s incomprehensible that a company which made operating profits of over £178m last year can’t now afford to keep promises to its staff,” said the NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear.

“This is all about the appalling financial mismanagement of Johnston Press. The company prided itself on massive and unsustainable profit margins, taking cash out of the business, whilst putting the company in the red.”

“Now as those debts are being called in, managers can be found floundering, without any strategy except to cut back on already stretched editorial budgets.

“The bad faith being shown by the company is unbelievable. We’ll be consulting our members about how they want to respond to the announcement, but anger is already running high so the prospect of action can’t be ruled out.”

The shit being churned out by the likes of Paul Myles Kelly, Terry Kelly, David Maclean, Leah Strug, Lisa Nightingale, Angela Taggart, Andy Hughes and Verity Ward won’t be doing circulation figures much good so it’s hardly suprising advertising revenues at the Gazette are also down year on year.

If you’re stupid enough to waste 42p on a copy of the Gazette you certainly won’t be buying it for it’s news content, it’s not exactly packed with news is it?

But there’s plenty of worthless stories that are of little or no interest to the majority of readers including; a spattering of regurgitated old news (which has often appeared on blogs up to 2 weeks earlier), pages of advertising, an occasional cheap and shoddy competition and the odd ‘giveaway’ – remember the free packet of crisps promotion?

But in these uncertain times you can be sure of one thing – the Gazette will be full of Labour party propaganda, council spin and happy smiley pictures of Labour councillors; most of whom are up for re-election in 2010. You decide whether it’s coincidence, or piss poor editorial control by John Szymanski who appears to be answerable to his new found friends in the council rather than his employer.

Perhaps Mr Szymanski would like to explain to his dwindling readership why the Gazette didn’t publish this story?

30
Dec
08

EXCLUSIVE: Journalists Plan Three Days of Industrial Action

EXCLUSIVE: Mr Monkey can reveal workers at Newsquest North East based in Darlington are angry about job cuts and a pay freeze and have voted for industrial action in a secret ballot.

They now plan to hold mandatory union meetings at noon on Monday 5 January, Tuesday 6 January, and Wednesday 7 January.

On 5 January journalists at the Newsquest centre in York – fifty miles down the road – will receive the results of their ballots for industrial action over similar issues.

Jenny Lennox, Assistant Organiser for the North of England said:

“The Newsquest chapels in the North East had both been offered pay rises during negotiations before the company snatched them away and imposed a pay freeze.

“At both centres there have been big job cuts and the heart has been ripped out of papers that played a significant part in the distinctive cultural life of the region – and helped to hold the communities together.

“Our New Year’s message is that members are determined to stand up for each other and to stand up for journalism.”

The Darlington Newsquest centre publishes the daily Northern Echo, the Darlington and Stockton Times, the Durham Times and the Advertiser series of free papers – employing around 100 editorial staff.

Mr Monkey reckons that if the financial problems at the Gazette’s parent company, plummeting advertising revenues and falling circulation figures continue, staff at Chapter Row may be forced in to taking similar action to protect their jobs.

So if it’s about cost cutting, perhaps it’s time to carry out a job evaluation – what better place to start than with the editor because he seems to spend most of his time hiding up Malcolm’s arse.