Five months ago, at the East Salford Community Committee the Salford Star tried to ask a question regarding the Development Framework Group (Charlestown and Lower Kersal), which handles all the income that comes in from the assets of the Charlestown and Lower Kersal NDC – the £53million ten year `regeneration programme' which has left a load of houses tinned up or demolished, and, er, not much else (see previous Salford Star report click here).
The accessibly titled `Development Framework Group' was set up to be the `guardian of the NDC programme legacy – including helping to protect NDC investment'…`investing the annuity in a way that has a positive and meaningful impact on the local community'…and to `reflect the views of the wider local community'.
The question is how can this group `reflect the views of the wider local community' if the wider community doesn't know what the hell it is doing, how much it's spending and how it's spending its money?
There's no website, no publicly available minutes for any of the Development Framework Group's meetings, and no financial information at all. So we tried to ask the question about its functioning during `community questions' at the East Salford Community Committee last March – there wasn't time.
We tried to ask this question again at the East Salford Community Committee in May. But no `community questions' were taken at all – much to the horror of many people who attended. So much so that apologies have since gone out to community contacts.
Horrified, the Salford Star sent in a formal Freedom of Information request on 25th May, demanding `all minutes, financial records and reports of the NDC Development Framework Group'. This should have been answered within twenty working days…
Twenty working days went by with no response. At the beginning of July we complained and got the usual reply… `Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your request. This is receiving our attention and we will respond to you shortly.'
We responded that while we'd been waiting all these months, the Development Framework Group had actually produced an Annual Report and thus we "can only assume that someone is deliberately trying to block the release of information about the spending of public money and find this disgraceful".
A few apologetic phone calls followed, and an undertaking that Salford Council would get us the info by the end of last week. Then another e-mail arrived, on Friday, of course, telling us that we would get the information this week. If we do get it, then it's taken over five months to winkle out basic financial information from a Group that is supposed to be the `guardian' of money that belongs to the community of East Salford.
The amount that this Group is `guarding' is believed to be in the region of £100,000 – but while the Annual Report for 2011-12 gives percentages of Expenditure and Income – there are no financial figures given at all.
East Salford's community might like to know that 78% of the Development Framework Group's expenditure went on `Administrative costs', `Marketing and Publicity' and `Training Expenses', while only 22% went on `Small grants' for community groups in the area.
The 63% `Administrative Costs' for Development Framework Group did not include rent, as its HQ at Salford Innovation Forum is rent free.
Salford Council is the accountable body for the Development Framework Group. And its current silence is deafening…
* Last May the Salford Star asked elected Mayor candidates about the NDC `succession strategy' and Ian Stewart (now Mayor) responded thus...
QUESTION 4: What do you think of the Salford NDC's `succession strategy'?
The Charlestown and Lower Kersal New Deal for Communities was a £53million disaster – and now it's gone does any candidate actually know or care what's happening in the area? There is a `succession strategy' but it's harder to find than a diamond in a pig's butt…
Ian Stewart: I am aware of history and demise of New Deal for Communities. It was exclusive to certain areas of the City should have been city-wide. Strategic decision making should be made by resident's at the most local level achievable. If elected, I would need to work hard to 'get up to speed' on current NDC Succession Strategy and how it sits with the public, before making any considered suggestions.
For full Salford Star Mayoral Challenge article - click here