Next Tuesday, 21st February, Salford Council will be asked to ratify a further £24million of cuts, on top of £40million announced last year. An official report to be presented to the full Council meeting estimates that between the years 2011 and 2015 there will be in total over £100million of cuts.
Also happening next Tuesday is a Salford Council Planning meeting at which Salford Council is being asked to underwrite almost £2million by 2017 towards a makeover of the Bridgewater Canal.
The total commitment of £1,965,714 from Salford Council is to make up a shortfall in a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund worth £5,465,614. The bid is being re-submitted because the original one was thrown out by the Lottery Fund partly because it was "concerned" about "the commitment of Peel, as a major land landowner within the Bridgewater Canal Corridor to maintain the improvements on their land and the need for them to commit more financially to the project".
Following a meeting between Salford Council and Peel, the report to the Planning meeting states that "Peel have agreed to provide a letter…providing a commitment to maintain the towpath improvements until a minimum of 2035 …Peel will also provide a written commitment of £50,000 capital funding towards the project. Peel also outlined at this meeting that as part of their proposed developments along the canal they would expect to have to provide Section 106 funding, which could help to meet the match funding shortfall."
In other words, as well as the pathetic £50,000 contribution to make its Bridgewater Canal more attractive for development (riverside houses, apartments, cafes, bars) it will hand over Section 106 payments from its profit raking developments to the Council, which it is legally is obliged to do anyway! And Salford Council tax payers potentially pick up the bill for the other £1,965,714…
Salford council tax payers may well be asking when the subsidising of one of the richest companies in the UK is going to end. The Salford Star recently handed Peel Holdings a Mary Burns Feed The Rich Award (see here) for receiving over £2million in direct payments over the last 12 months from Salford Council for MediaCityUK, as well as £490million in total public payments (see here)…
…Peel is also attracting £30million in public subsidy for its Port Salford venture, including £15million from Salford Council. There's also a £22million loan from local tax payers towards the Salford City Stadium joint venture Peel/Salford Council company.
Peel Holdings is backed by the powerful and fabulously rich Saudi conglomerate, Olayan Group, which has a stake in the company. The combined wealth of Peel svengali and Isle of man tax exile, John Whittaker, and the Olayan family is estimated to be around $16billion (more of this to follow).
It's ironic that the same day Salford Council will ratify millions of pounds worth of cuts it will also be ratifying yet another £2million of subsidy to the interests of Peel Holdings…
• The Bridgewater Canal, according to this Salford Council report already receives between £250-300,000 per year in subsidy from Salford Council.
• The report also states that its contribution of £1,965,714 will "hopefully be secured from external organisations"…yet £1,150,000 of this `external funding' is from Salford West which is actually Salford Council's own fund for the regeneration of the Salford West area.
• The Salford West fund is managed by the Salford West Partnership Board which is made up of made up of "people from local businesses, regional organisations and local public services, and councillors". The names of the actual people who sit on the Board is not available anywhere in the public domain (we certainly can't find it), and neither are there any minutes of any board meetings available to the public. Yet the Board is responsible for the delivery of the Salford West Plan involving millions of pounds of Salford Council money. Who wants to bet that Peel Holdings sit on this Board?
• The Heritage Lottery bid comprises of "public realm and heritage improvements and activities to the following sites owned by either Salford City Council or Peel Holdings, who own the canal… Bridgewater Canal towpath; Bridgewater Park, Boothstown; Worsley Delph; Dukes Drive, Monton, and Barton Aqueduct pocket park".
• The Salford Council report into the match funding warns of a "worst case scenario that we do not manage to obtain any further match funding from either external organisations or other external match funding bodies, this would require the council to make provision within its capital programme for 2015/16 and 2016/17 of £957,857 per year, a significant challenge given the current and anticipated future financial climate…" The report also warns that "There is a medium risk that the council may not achieve its match funding target as set out in this report, thereby meaning the council may actually have to underwrite the shortfall…"
• In the report's conclusion the Council's legal adviser warns that "The report makes certain assumptions, in good faith, about the future availability of finance, but, if, for whatever reason, those expectations are not fulfilled, there could be questions about how the project might continue to be funded and, in the extreme case of the council's not being able to make up any deficiency in match-funding, what view Heritage Lottery Fund might take…"
Additional reporting by Anne Czernik