Guardian considers returning to its northern roots

5th April 2017

The Guardian is “actively considering” moving back to Manchester in an attempt to save money. Senior executives at Guardian Media Group have held “top secret” talks about moving the newspaper’s headquarters from north London back to its birthplace in Manchester, The Times has learnt.

The newspaper, which began its move to the capital in 1964, has been suffering from falling advertising revenue as retailers turn to Google and Facebook. Last year it made 250 staff redundant and employees have been told that more job cuts are on the way, with the newspaper expecting to make heavy financial losses again this year. Rent on its headquarters in Kings Place, near King’s Cross, has also soared in recent years, and the newspaper started looking at other locations in London a year ago. Insiders say that Kath Viner, the paper’s editor, is particularly keen on the move, which could happen within two years. “Executives are actively considering a move to Manchester,” one source said. Most editorial and administrative staff would be expected to move north, although a core of journalists, including political correspondents and some executives, would remain in London. Those who refused to relocate would be expected to receive voluntary redundancy, the source said. Insiders confirmed that discussions had taken place: “Many options are being discussed but no decision has been made. All options, including Manchester, are on the table.”

Talks are also continuing on changing the mid-size Berliner format of the newspaper to save money. John Whittingdale, the former culture secretary, said that any plan to ensure the future of the newspaper should be considered. “This is a further demonstration of the financial pressures that newspapers are now under,” Mr Whittingdale said. “The Guardian is going through a very difficult time and while it may save them cash it will do nothing to address the wider changes affecting all newspapers, with advertising going to Google and Facebook.” Ms Viner, who became editor in 2015, has been more aggressive than her predecessor, Alan Rusbridger, in cutting costs, and is aiming to make the newspaper break even within three years by shaving 20 per cent off spending. Last year the group’s losses after tax and one-off charges topped £200 million. Guardian bosses are thought to be looking at the Media Village in Salford, on the outskirts of Manchester. The BBC has relocated more than 3,000 staff there and ITV also has 750 staff at the growing media hub. Channel 4 may also move out of London, to Salford or Birmingham, after Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, proposed last month that the broadcaster should leave the capital. With better transport links in the next few years as part of the Northern Powerhouse project, the Salford media hub is fast becoming a credible and cheaper alternative to London. The Manchester Guardian was first published in 1821 and stayed in the city for more than 140 years. Guardian sources said office costs would still be expensive, but less than in London. “This all has to be weighed up before a decision is made,” one source said. “Some may want to move . . . The cost of living will be cheaper.” A spokesman for Guardian News & Media said: “We are always looking at ways to reduce our cost base, including where different functions are located, but we have no plans to leave Kings Place at present.”