Retailers in the south west expressed anger at being hit by two consecutive cut-off time extensions that started on 4 September.

On both occasions, the NFRN was informed of the decisions less than 12 hours before papers were due to be delivered to stores.

Retailers supplied by Smiths News depots in Redruth, Plymouth, Exeter, Barnstaple, Taunton, Yeovil, Swansea and Gloucester were all affected.

Guardian head of supply chain Roger Clapham described the announcements as “far from ideal” and apologised to NFRN members, but said the delays were necessary as “a reaction to the developing news agenda”.

However, the NFRN said publishers should have known earlier. “Publishers must be aware of the events going on throughout the day and the decision cannot be made that late,” said NFRN news operations manager Peter Williamson.

Smiths News told RN that the trunking of different publisher’s titles onto one vehicle was compounding late deliveries by publishers in the south west.

South west district president Derek Cook agreed, commenting: “A half-hour cut-off time extension very quickly turns into an hour or more by the time it gets to us.

“It’s not Smiths’ fault, it’s the publishers that need to realise that that extra half-hour means vans get stuck in traffic or it causes bottlenecks at depots. The further down into the south west you go, the more frustrated news customers are becoming.”

Les Gilbert of Chard News in Chard, Somerset, described the impact of the extension stating: “We will be open 30 minutes late while we do the 30-minute-late paper rounds. The industry needs to understand that this is not sustainable.”

Cook called for greater transparency as to how publishers decide that the reason for the extension will offset issues caused by late deliveries or re-runs.