Star date: 22nd February 2012


"That was pure comedy – I've never seen anything like it" watching member of the public.

It was supposed to be a full meeting of Salford Council to discuss the serious issue of £24million of cuts to services for some of the most vulnerable people in Salford…

…But what should have been a solemn occasion soon turned to farce. Salford Council owes the people of this City an apology for this shambles.

Full story here…

Salford Council Cuts Meeting Salford Council Cuts Meeting Salford Council Cuts Meeting
click image to enlarge

It should have been a thorough debate about £24million of cuts to public services and jobs in Salford as councillors gathered to discuss what Councillor Hinds described as "the most difficult budget I've ever had to present".

Instead there were accusations of bullying, a Tory in tears, a councillor swearing, jokes being cracked, councillors nodding off to sleep…and a member of the public ludicrously being chucked out for shouting his disgust at them all.

Oh, and the main debating issue of the day – Cuts to youth services? Welfare rights? Day care services for the elderly? No - the price of car parks… Welcome to Salford Clowncil...

This full Council meeting began with Tory leader, Karen Garrido first complaining about the absence of prayers and then about the positioning of the Granada Reports tv cameras which would "only show the back of our heads". This, kind of, set the tone for level of debate…

Next up was Councillor Bill Hinds presenting the £24million of cuts with the most positive spin he could dredge up, listing what the Council had saved from the axe and how he'd kept his pledge to support the vulnerable people in the city. Of course, anyone glancing at the 172 page report accompanying the meeting would have noticed on page 5…

 A further reduction of £1.3m in addition to the £1.7m reduction in 2011/12 in respect of our services to the youth in the City which will lead to reduced provision in localities and significant reductions in careers and employment advice to over 6,000 young people at such a difficult time

 A reduction of £200k in direct support to the voluntary sector in providing services to tackle family poverty

 A reduction of £479k in transport for special needs children

 A reduction of £350k in support to welfare rights and debt advice to citizens

 Impact upon the local economy through the removal of approximately 360 posts in addition to the 600 posts lost in 2011/12, which will have impacts upon the local economy

 A further reduction of £850k in addition to the £1.2m reduction in 2011/12 in the Skills and Work service, which has successfully helped some 2,800 local residents to find and be skilled for work or into jobs in the Salford economy in the past twelve months at such a difficult economic time

 A further reduction of £624k in addition to the £2m reduction in 2011/12 in the Supporting People programme which gives support to over 5,500 vulnerable people 

 A reduction in support to the voluntary sector which may lead to the demise of many organisations providing vital services to residents and will result in loss of service from those which survive.

A few paragraphs later they might also have noted… "2012/13 will see a further reduction of £779,000 with less funding available to housing support services for learning difficulty, mental health, and sheltered accommodation and homeless clients. This will reduce funding for sheltered accommodation by 13%, homelessness accommodation and floating support by 5% and learning difficulties and mental health by almost 5%. These savings will result from changes made to service delivery leading to a reduced number of people supported or a reduction in the level of support provided…"

Hinds went on… "I didn't come into the Council to decimate services which is sometimes what we've had to do…but let's be clear where the blame should lie…it's an ideological move by the Coalition Government…"

Hinds talked about "difficult choices" and then went on to justify the millions of pounds the Council has borrowed to "inject growth into the economy", and to the sound of laughter in the public gallery, listed projects like Media City with the `thousands of jobs' that they bring…Virtually in the next breath he added that unemployment in Salford stands at the highest level since 1996 and that we're looking at a "lost generation" of our young people.

"I'm not proud to present this budget" he concluded "and there's worse to come…"

The fun and games really started when Councillor Andy Cheetham put forward the Tory's alternative budget – which would have cut even more money for a 2% cut in council tax. The proposals included taking three days Christmas leave off council staff, slashing money to the Working Class Movement Library, moving some of the Media City budget to help businesses in other areas of Salford and lots of stuff about making car parks free to help shops.

Labour's Councillor Lancaster responded that "We're seeing people suffer like never before with cuts to the elderly and youth – you can't seriously be talking about car parks?"

He then waffled on about car parks.

The Conservative councillors and the ConDem Government were a soft target all morning for the Labour councillors – which, of course, enabled them to avoid justifying their own "choices" for the axe. Indeed, for the whole length of the meeting no-one actually challenged the cuts that were being proposed.

There was simply no opposition and no debate at all. Where was the voice of those who are at the sharp end of the cuts – the youth, the elderly, the vulnerable? They didn't have one.

The LibDems didn't even propose an alternative budget, while the Independent councillor, Martin O'Neill, supported Labour. The Tories just agreed with most of the cuts and added to them.

Easy targets for Council Leader, John Merry, who spoke of two letters he'd received from overweight Communities and Local Government minister, Eric Pickles… "One was about prayers, which is hardly the most important issue, and when the other letter arrived I thought it might be about giving us more money" he recalled "Instead it was about street parties to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee…

"Now if Mr Pickles restores the cuts I will personally throw a street party" he smirked "...although we might have to make more cuts if we invite Mr Pickles…"

Shortly after the best joke of the day, Conservative Leader, Karen Garrido, was in tears – not about the cuts, of course, but after Councillor Lancaster had made a snide remark, presumably about her husband's past business dealings. Robert Garrido was going on about not borrowing money you can't pay back when Lancaster quipped… "You did…"

Accusations flew between councillors as Lancaster refused to repeat what he'd said and the Mayor struggled to retain order. Those in the public gallery looked on in disbelief and one guy shouted "You're all a disgrace"… He was promptly thrown out.

While Karen Garrido was recovering from her sobs, Labour Councillor Bill Hinds told the Tories to "sod off" as the level of debate reached infantile proportions.

Conservative councillor Lyn Bramer-Kelly was constantly harangued during her speech justifying taking three days Christmas leave off council staff, which led to accusations that Labour councillors were bullying her, and finally Karen Garrido stood up to say… "I'm not here to have my past raked up". She then added some common sense to the proceedings…

"I'm sick to death of hearing rhetoric as if you are the only ones who care" she told Labour councillors "You don't have to do this [budget]…but you've done it…"

John Merry responded… "You've had an opportunity to question this budget but chose not to do so because you wanted to propose a cut to council tax…"

Proceedings then sunk to the previous slanging match that even had the Mayor saying "Please don't revert to childish ways..."

And that was it really, with councillors breaking out their violins to weep how they personally had suffered deprivation… Councillor Iain Lindley had to stack shelves at Marks and Spencer! Councillor Lancaster was once on the dole for a while! And Councillor Balkind came close once to losing his house!

…Indeed, while all around Labours councillors were metaphorically weeping with regret and pointing the finger at the ConDem Government, Balkind actually said "I'm proud of this budget…I'm proud of what we're doing as a council", as he listed the few bits of welfare the council has saved…

The cuts were passed with the usual huge majority. And still there was no voice of proper opposition for those who are going to feel these cuts at the sharp end. That was left to the token trade union protest outside the Civic Centre before the meeting started…

"You get the impression that a number of them [Labour councillors] are sympathetic but they've been sold the narrative that there's no alternative, and I think most people think there is an alternative but aren't being allowed to discuss it" said Mike Hughes who works in Welfare and Debt Advice

"We're having a review on Debt Advice and even though it hasn't concluded they are being asked to vote on the cuts" he added "Instead they are going `We need to cut this and then we'll decide how we are going to do it', which seems to be the wrong way round…"

Lindsay Boothman, also working in Welfare Rights and Debt Advice, was concerned for those affected by Government and Salford Council cuts and the lack of help they will receive as a result of the vote…

"I think it's a bad day for the people of Salford if debt advice gets slashed" she said "You've got welfare reform coming through, cuts to housing benefits, redundancies, people needing advice more than ever. We don't know what is happening and we're worried - and Salford people should be worried."

As councillors went into the meeting they tried to persuade them not to go ahead with the cuts… "One stopped and spoke to us but by and large they've just ignored us, which is to be expected."

A huge contrast to the bleeding hearts littering the floor inside the council chamber…

The most important meeting of Salford Council this year began with farce, and didn't get much above this level for the whole two hours. One member of the public, attending only his second Salford Council meeting ever, summed it all up… "That was pure comedy – I've never seen anything like it…"

…And still no voice for those at the sharp end of what will be £103million of cuts over the next few years.

Car parks, personal tears, jokes, insults, bullying, swearing…Salford Council owes the people of this City a massive apology for this shambles. To any neutral onlooker it was a total disgrace…

For full details of Salford Council cuts see previous Salford Star articles - click here and click here


Zooty Zoot wrote
at 20:45:15 on 04 March 2012
As O.B. posted on 17/02/2012 : Merry should tell the people of Salford ' How you can piss away our money hob-nobbing with billionaires , and then tell us we are broke ' . Merry must be too busy trying out the Mayoral Chair , or simply too arrogant , to reply . We should all e-mail until Merry answers this very relevant and important question .
The Truth Sayer wrote
at 21:06:28 on 03 March 2012
Time the Town Hall Turds got rid of Spicey , who will not be needed when we elect a mayor , according to Pickles , as the mayor will assume responsibilty for running this Shambles - and NO cosy pay-off bung with OUR money ..Stop wasting OUR money on external 'consultants'- the existing staff should be competent enough to make decisions , if not , sack them ..Stop bunging OUR money at Rich Business Associates..Get rid off all the 'non-jobs', brown-nosers ,jobsworth- wasters, and generally inept , inadequate unemployables WE are paying for ......Problem Solved .
Winston Smith wrote
at 11:14:56 on 02 March 2012
If a councillor walked in to a meeting of council employees and found them name calling, shouting at each other, joking around, having tantrums and plainly behaving in a grossly unprofessional manner, they'd go ballistic, and have a case for disciplinary action. They obviously don't apply to themselves the same standards of civilised behaviour they expect from others. Oh, what's the point
Gareth Lyons wrote
at 13:06:05 on 01 March 2012
Hi Ste, Why should we be surprised at the antics in the council chamber? Has everyone forgot my article on The Star last year, after what I saw in the Chambers, (SALFORD COUNCIL SPENDING CUTS PANTOMIME http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=895) It seems that far from getting better behaved our public servants are even worse behaved. Or maybe it is a cunning plan to divert attention from the people in this city who will be hurt by their cuts.
Resident of this Dead City wrote
at 22:17:40 on 28 February 2012
My belief is that for many years the Shabby-Suited Looters at the Swinetown Madhouse have prostituted themselves in their slavish eagerness to do the bidding of their Masters , the Sharp-Suited Looters Alliance of Big Business . The conned citizens of Deadsalford pay , by the Great Clouncil Tax Extortion , receiving austerity in return , whilst subsidising the grandiose schemers and bullshitters , under the empty promises of 'jobs for Salford '. It really is time WE woke up and fought back against this blatant RIP-OFF,and refused to be conned and shafted any more . .
Its simple wrote
at 11:16:22 on 28 February 2012
That we need to spend our way out of this. I suggest that as all these previous ventures have been good for Salford and the people of Salford, by paying for themselves and making a profit that we (1) Sponsor another Orchestra (2) Set up all year ice rinks round the city (3) Give multi million pound loans to big business without getting anything in writing about when the money will be repaid (4) Set up more public/private partnerships where we take all the risk and dont know if we will see any profit (5) Pay for lots and lots of consultants. Pay them the top rate because they are worth it (6) Let Peel run the city
salford pimpernelle wrote
at 13:37:51 on 26 February 2012
£24 million worth of cuts for Salford, didn't really need to, £22 million Salford Reds, £20 million philharmonic orchestra, a million a year on the lowry centre. these wankers are just spending it in the wrong places
Anti-Politician wrote
at 07:33:51 on 26 February 2012
The Clowncil Cretins certainly owe an apology to the inmates of this asylum , Deadsalford . The Clowncil Cretins must also explain why OUR money is being tossed away at mega-rich Big Business Chums , while the taxpayers must endure reduced services and austerity . The cosy relationship between the Clowncil and Big Business Chums needs immediate investigation . This dead city would be no worse off if run by Chicago Mobsters , complete with machine-guns in volin cases .
Winston Smith wrote
at 07:33:21 on 26 February 2012
Ian - good point about the BNP. While the main parties are busy with their comedy squabbles, ignoring the voters and generally looking after their own interests, the extremists are gaining ground. The BNP recently got nearly 10% of the vote in Eccles. The more stupid the council look, the more credible the BNP look. And the council are looking more stupid as time goes on...
Ian - OB - Obrien wrote
at 06:10:12 on 25 February 2012
To Anon, I think we all agree with your sentiments, and sympathise too. That said, I don't think the Salford Star intended the piece to appear dismissive of the parking issues which affect most of us. Nonethes less, this report was about the cuts which Salford is facing, rather than just one aspect of the injustice visited on Salford people by the council. They do say that when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold. We might just as well say - When Manchester farts, Salford smells - because the parking issues stem from Manchester. Manchester imposes new parking fees and John Merry wags his tail like a good little doggy and gleefully bounds away to impose parking charges in Salford, just in case people working in Manchester decide to leave their car in Irlam and walk into Manchester city centre (apparently). Pathetic, but true. As for Salford precinct losing business, that is exactly what the council want. They have been, and are, running the place down so badly so that it can be flogged off at way below the market value to developers. Perhaps, the way British politics has been looking for some time, somebody on the council will find a new Range Rover on their drive in Boothstown or Worsley. I'm not accusing anybody of being bent as a nine bob note of course, just saying that there has been a lot of dodgy dealings on both sides of the house in the last few years (which we know about). So. What do you think will appear on the market soon? Have a guess? I am betting a new Nandos, a Subway and a Sports Direct. That way Salford can itself follow the American lead of throwing up identical, souless, strip malls the way the rest of the country is. We can all shop at identical, big stores and nobody will have to worry about the pesky independent small businesses getting in the way. Well, I have said enough and, as usual, gone off topic quite a lot. Apologies for that. However, thanks to the Salford Star, again, for an excellent piece. Perhaps next it could look at the BNP morons handing out fake council letters and trying to stir up abuse against non whites living in our fine city?
mary ferrer wrote
at 17:33:18 on 24 February 2012
The picture painted here of this meeting is just a norman full council meeting. I have sat and felt in the past if people from another planet landed in there during one of these farces what they would do,well get back in their space ship.Its a game of point scoring and seeing who can be as rude as they can to the other side. Its a time of pointing the finger and doing sod all. This Labour council have over the last 10 years if not longer been on a spree of spend spend and we are up to our necks in debt.They give the spin of this money we give to peel,BBC will bring in jobs,how many have we seen. Just look at the front page of this weeks Advertizer. About 6/8 months ago this Labour council bought back the lease on the car park that they ownd at the willows for £250.000.if they had waited they would have got it back for free. Now Mr Salford has £250.000 of our money and has gone into liquidation, staff now have to get their redundicy money from the goverment and the poor sods owed for what ever they have supplied to this person will have to get the crumbs and I bet some of them are small local firms. By the way Mr Salford hadn't paid the £17.000 plus rent per year on the car park for years. That is the kind of person this council do business with. We have built a stadium with a loan of £22 million plus for a team who owe the tax man over £50.000,so how will they pay the rent. Peel are getting our money hand of fist and the BBC get £2 million each year for their BAND and the council are cutting the music teaching for our school children. Yes our council are doing a grand job of looking after OUR City and OUR MONEY. Get used to it because for some daft reason we keep voting them back in. I bet they sit in their office with the booze we have paid for counting all their extra allowences they get for doing sod all. saying what a load of fools we all are.
Winston Smith wrote
at 17:31:15 on 24 February 2012
Absolutely hilarious, I wish I could have seen this, it sounds like a cartoon or a chimps tea party or something. We should sell the TV rights to their meetings and get at least some use out of them and their antics
Anon. wrote
at 22:05:53 on 23 February 2012
I agree with the general sentiments of the article especially with the loss of debt advice, however I don't like how the article has made car parking charges seem completely irrelevent. Salford Council have recently put the car parking charges up on Salford precinct and I work on there. It now costs me £5 all day whereas before it cost me £2.50. Across a full week thats an extra £12.50 which doesn't seem much but across a month its £50 and across a year its an extra £650. In the tough economical times that is a significant chunk out of my pay (along with a recent paycut) and whilst the precinct is dying on its backside, it could be a perfectly good debate especially with a pending renovation. Drop in sales could lead to loss of jobs and potentially stores, which I'm sure SS would comment on why wasn't something done? For me personally and a lot of people I know, a trip of Manchester Fort or Regent Road is preferable purely because it has similar shops and free parking, when in some cases the precinct is actually closer. You could tell me to lose the car, but by default I'd lose my job too. So maybe instead of looking at what you think people want to read, think about what the people of Salford actually do or could want instead of brushing over a big issue and pretending it is irrelevant.
Ian - OB - Obrien wrote
at 13:18:31 on 23 February 2012
I thought I would take a moment to add to what is, without a doubt, the most honest and straightforward account of this farce in the British press today. Here is a tweet from Jen Williams for the Manchester Evening Nazi....erm....'news'. "Councillor Hinds is rehashing last year's budget speech. "It wasn't us" he says. We will not take responsibility for anything." And that about sums it up, in my opinion. We will not take responsibility for anything. Hinds, if you are reading this, please consider the fact that the people of Salford PAY YOU TO TAKE FECKING RESPONSIBILITY!!! For EVERYTHING MATE. That is your job,you utterly and abjectly slimy little man 'man'. Who do you expect to take responsibility? Me? The Salford Star? Barack O-Bloody-Bama? If the council were a business and you would have been fired. But it isn't. It isn't because, as we see, it cannot even manage a bduget meeting, much less anything else. Salford Civic Centre is a playground for these plastic politicians. The great history of Salford as one of the most important cities in the history of the world, of innovation, technology and of political discourse is being sold off, piece by piece to Saudi billionaires by little men who have set out their stall and flogging themselves on the cheap. I will stop writing now. I feel dizzy with anger.
jeffrey smith wrote
at 20:38:39 on 22 February 2012
ive lived in salford nearly 50 yrs And our local councillors couldnt run a bath let alone salford
Gary Paul Duke wrote
at 20:38:35 on 22 February 2012
When a Labour council imposes Tory cuts they become a Tory council in their actions and Labour in name only. The ruling Labour group on the council long ago gave up any pretensions of representing the working class of Salford. We need a group of real socialists who like the Poplar Councillors in the 1920s are not frightened to take on the government and go to prison if necessary. It's called fighting for your principles and it's what socialist politicians should do. What we have is a council that accept the Tory mantra that the poor should pay for the profligacy of the bankers, that the poor should subsidise companies like Vodafone who have the billions they owe in taxes written off. What we need is a council who will take on the government, will fight for the funding of decent services for workers in Salford. They could make a start by clawing back every penny of our council taxes that have gone to Peel Holdings/Peel Media to help build Media City. They should demand that the BBC pay back the huge council tax payer subsidies that help fund BBC Philharmonic. This money could be used to save and create new jobs. We need a real democratic socialist alternative to this farce of a council.
c t whitter wrote
at 20:37:47 on 22 February 2012
all these cuts but we have within the council on more than 200k with assistant to them people who again earn over 200k. how much dose the pm get again and he's not worth 10 pound an hour never mind these cretins
Fadge wrote
at 18:52:46 on 22 February 2012
Hope Granada TV filmed the Clowncil Cretins Show in its entirety , and present it on primetime TV as 'Bluff, Bluster and Bullshit : a Comedy Farce of Gross Ineptitude '.. As for the guy who shouted ' You're all a disgrace ', grateful thanks from Salford's Shafted Citizens . Fancy the mayor's job ? ...... Salford Clowncil are a gang of inept , useless , self-serving goons , who deserve nothing but contempt , and the Citizens of this dead city should order them all to SOD OFF .
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