South East Wales

Newsquest repays £245k Welsh Government grant after hub shut

South Wales Argus office in Newport Image copyright Google
Image caption The Newsquest-owned South Wales Argus is produced in Newport

A newspaper firm has repaid a £245,000 Welsh Government grant after a production hub the money helped set up in Newport has now closed.

The grant was on condition 50 jobs were created and 15 were safeguarded, with all remaining in place by 2020.

But Newsquest held two rounds of job cuts in 2016 and the hub shut in April.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has now called for that recouped cash to be reinvested in "struggling" local newspapers.

Newsquest, whose papers include Newport-based South Wales Argus, opened the sub-editing hub in 2013.

A total of £340,000 in support, including the Welsh Government grant and £95,000 from the Skills Growth Fund, was given to the Newport project.

At its peak, the unit employed more than 70 people, sub-editing material written by reporters from 100 daily and weekly newspapers across the UK.

First Minister Carwyn Jones told AMs in March the Welsh Government would look to get the cash back if conditions attached to the grant to Newsquest were not met.

"Whilst Newsquest currently meet the terms and conditions of the grant, we were alert to the possibility that between now and 2020 we may wish to undertake further changes to our business," said a Newsquest spokesman.

"Although we have no current plans to do this, we believed it would be correct to return the grant, and Newsquest has therefore given back the £245,000 grant in full. This was entirely at our own volition."

NUJ Welsh organiser John Toner said it is a "lesson" for the Welsh Government as he said it "should have used the grant to support local newspapers and fund media start-ups rather than this profitable American-owned publisher".

He added: "That is why we are asking that the refunded money be used to aid new and struggling news enterprises."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We remain open to supporting Newsquest in the future and to helping them retain their significant operation in Newport."

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