Telegraph pensions dispute escalates

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The Independent Online

A row between Express Newspapers and the Telegraph Media Group over the health of the pension fund at West Ferry Printers intensified yesterday, as fears grow about efforts to plug a £66m deficit in the printer's scheme.

The Express said a letter sent by Telegraph chief executive Murdoch MacLennan to members of the pension scheme was "misleading and unacceptable". In the letter, Mr MacLennan, whose company has decided to pull out of its 50/50 joint venture with the Express at West Ferry, said that the Telegraph was working to secure the pension scheme and that it had agreed to make a contribution of £8m towards the deficit this year.

The Express claimed thatthe Telegraph has neither made nor agreed to make any suchcontribution.

A senior trustee of the pension scheme echoed the Express, saying that he was "unclear" about the claim in Mr MacLennan's letter. "We're not quite sure what the £8m figure is... It's not been put to the trustees," he said. "There is already a commitment of £3m from West Ferry Limited... but I don't recognise the £8m figure. We're in the dark a bit."

The trustee said that he was "personally not impressed" with the letter, noting that it did not add a great deal to what members of the scheme knew already.

Robert Sanderson, group finance director of Express Newspapers, said that the Telegraph was refusing to "put pensioners' minds properly at rest".

The Telegraph declined to comment last night.