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BBC accused of abandoning West Midlands as plans to axe 52 jobs announced

By Richard Guttridge | Birmingham | Business | Published:

The BBC has been accused of turning its back on the West Midlands after plans to axe dozens of jobs from its Birmingham base were announced.

The BBC is set to axe roles at The Mailbox

Some 52 jobs are set to go at the Mailbox, including 36 on the central sub editing desk which manages much of the content on the BBC website read by millions every day.

The proposals are understood to have caused fury among staff at the corporation, who feel they have not been properly thought through by bosses.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said it was "incredibly frustrating that once again the West Midlands seems set to disproportionately bear the brunt of these BBC cuts" and has urged a rethink.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said there was "no justification" for axing the roles.

A BBC spokesman said the need to cut costs meant "difficult decisions" had to be made.

Three of the 36 subbing roles are set to be saved but relocated to Salford, and there are concerns that the BBC's presence in the West Midlands is being diluted in favour of the north west.

The other 16 jobs set to go will be from TV and online.

A Mailbox source said: "People are horrified by the scale of the cuts - it's another savage blow for the Midlands.

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"There has been a backlash from staff across the website as the proposals are so poorly thought through. They want to rip the heart out of the BBC's online operation but with no idea how to replace it.

"It seems like they've decided to sack people first then sort out how everything works later."

Frustrating

Mayor Mr Street said he had written to BBC Director General Lord Hall to outline his concerns over the cuts, announced by BBC England director Helen Thomas and head of TV and online Declan Wilson. As well as the job losses, there are fears the changes could affect the quality of one of the most trusted sources of news in the UK.

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Mr Street said: “It is incredibly frustrating that once again the West Midlands seems set to disproportionately bear the brunt of these BBC cuts, despite already being under-represented and having been consistently overlooked in favour of London and Salford in recent decades.

“The closure of BBC England’s online subbing hub in the Mailbox in favour of a new desk in Salford is particularly disheartening, as it was a clear sign of the corporation’s commitment to the BBC outside of London and Salford."

Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said: "It is hard to explain why BBC England management seeks to dismantle one of its most experienced and successful teams with a proven track record of producing high quality work.

"There appears to be no justification for the changes and we call on the BBC to properly consult with the unions and staff."

A BBC spokesman said: “We have committed to doing more in the Midlands within the constraints of our financial challenge.

"Given we must save £25m from our budget for regional and local services by the end of March 2022, difficult decisions had to be made.

"We will still have our regional TV news service, six local radio stations and our regional political programme, plus we will pilot a digital political programme in the Midlands."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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