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NEW SELECT COMMITTEES AS SALFORD COUNCIL SEEKS IMPROVED ACCOUNTABILITY
 

Star date: 20th September 2012

`THERE WAS MORE DEMOCRACY TWENTY YEARS AGO AT SALFORD CITY COUNCIL'…
BUT THE MAYOR'S BIG NEW IDEA IS A BUS TOUR

At yesterday's full meeting of Salford Council, new proposals were approved to introduce government style Select Committees to try to improve its lamentable record on accountability and democracy. As Tory opposition leader, Karen Garrido, said the Council was more democratic twenty years ago, Mayor Ian Stewart unveiled his big new idea – a bus tour of Salford.

Will it all make any difference?

Full story here…


Tory opposition leader, Karen Garrido, was given an award at yesterday's full meeting of Salford Council to recognise twenty years service as a councillor. In her acceptance speech she took the opportunity to berate the Labour Council on its record of accountability…

"When I first got on [the Council] we knew what was going on in our name" she said "Then it changed to a Cabinet structure…I hope during my next twenty years we will start to see things change for the better."

It was a damning indictment of Salford Council's record on scrutiny, which has seen toothless, useless `Scrutiny Committees' achieve absolutely nothing. Or, as the Council report to councillors noted more politely…

"What has become very clear in the course of the review is that there has been limited improvement recommendations flowing from the Scrutiny process back to the policy making Executive, with the majority of issues considered by the Scrutiny function being noted rather than leading to specific direct actions."

The new model will see, what it calls, a "rebranding" of scrutiny into Select Committees, with seven of the things covering specific Council `directorates' - Regeneration, Children in Need, Community Safety, Supporting People, Customer Services, Health and Finance – with another Select Committee overseeing its work.

Each would meet up to nine times a year and would have the "power to request the attendance of the City Mayor, Strategic Assistant Mayors, Assistant Mayors and any officer of the Council but specifically directors and heads of service". They would be open to the public "except when it is necessary to hold proceedings under Part 2" (ie the juicy financial stuff).

The Council report notes "It is envisaged that the model would develop over time to create a strong working relationship between the Executive and the Scrutiny function which will enhance the effective governance of the organisation and lead potentially in the future to Scrutiny adopting a more proactive role in future governance matters."

In supporting the new model, Councillor Robin Garrido, for the Tory opposition, noted that it was a "recognition that scrutiny has not worked".

But will the Select Committees lead to more accountability or is it a mere "rebranding", as the report suggests?

Many of the `powers' of the Committees are already available under the present system; while the question has to be asked how much `scrutiny' can be done with the current opposition of only eight Conservative councillors. And will Labour councillors really `scrutinise' their own party's antics in power?

With the new Mayoral system there is even less democracy and accountability within Salford Council. Very few of the 13 new Assistant Mayors have to report back to any committees, or anyone for that matter. It is impossible for the public to know what they are doing all day for their huge payouts. The last time the `Mayoral Team' met for an accountable meeting was back in July.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ian Stewart himself has hardly thrown himself open to transparency, holding just four official meetings since he was elected in May - with only two agenda items open to the public, while seven items were discussed in secret.

At the Council meeting the Mayor announced his Big Ideagoing on a bus tour of Salford, with his Assistant Mayors and officers, visiting each ward "for a morning or afternoon" with "local councillors directing what we should see and listen to in their area". Stewart said that his `Connecting Salford' project would "take decision makers to the people" to produce "a shared vision for the future".

Connecting Salford would be "a scoping exercise", asking the question "How should the life of this city be in the future?", followed by a "three year city plan" as part of an "engagement strategy".

Salford people might well look in the bin and ask what happened to all the other `engagement strategies', `community plans', `visions' and `scoping exercises' over the last twenty years.

They might conclude that this is just another gimmick, as cuts to Day Care Centres, Mental Health drop-in groups and support for Council Tax benefits continue to be implemented, while £millions are fed to the BBC orchestra, Peel Holdings and prestige projects, like the £13million Greengate fountain.

Will `rebranding' scrutiny and a bus tour of Salford really bring democracy and accountability to Salford?

The Council could certainly start by answering some of the Salford Star's questions which have been outstanding for weeks…including the one about whether the City Mayor has his own personal budget to spend as he wishes…

Michael Felse wrote
at 14:53:40 on 24 September 2012
Joe is correct. Not all Labour people are the same, but the voters do not see it that way, those I have spoken to in Salford during the Mayor election just voted Labour without knowing who the candidate was. In my case at my Labour Party expulsion the Leader of Labour was Gordon Brown, had it been Miliband it is probable I would have instead taken a "ticking off". Job done, my eyes are wide open and the only way to get Salford Labour to take notice is for we diversity groups to be driven into Salford's Labour dominated council. In seeking diveristy of Salford views I pledge to not oppose, at next local ward's election, any of the names that stood during the Salford Mayoral 2012 election. With a choice vote of Labour or just one other candidate per ward the majority will be changed to a diverse mixed Salford enriched by new blood representative Councillors. Tactical candidating will be good for Salford.
 
Sam Spoons wrote
at 12:16:02 on 23 September 2012
Mayor Greedy Stewart is a failed MP , and now a failed mayor. We'll get rid off you and Spicer real soon , you greedy sods. And your half-wit army of greedy assistant assholes , too.
 
Joe O'neill wrote
at 20:54:04 on 22 September 2012
Hi Micheal Good to hear from you. It's hard to comment on labour like you i joined the party early,i sat through Smith and Foot,i even saw the back end of Wilson.But what i saw at the council was not the party that i felt in my early days could change the world.When you deal with the likes of Antrobus and others at Salford your stomach churns they see red and every thing else is like something you find on the bottom of your shoe,when they dumped John Merry it proved a point,John is a decent bloke he puts on a Labour face but he will listen ,they made a mistake when they picked a man who was turned down for someone who could not even beat Blears, it worried me,Blears was hated john said i did my self no favours attacking her but i stand by my feelings on her and the work done,not to say that all Labour are the same i met some really decent sorts i continue to fight like you because i believe we need change and i firmly belive Stewart was a failure in his role as MP and is playing Mayor at present being led by the labour old guard.I hope i find you well Joe
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 21:39:59 on 21 September 2012
Joe, not sure why you are knocking Hazel Blears. If she had been standing for Mayor of Salford I would have supported her owing to the excellent work she has done in the Labour Cabinet over many years. I think you are saying not all Labour people are the same and on that I have to agree with you 100%. But why are so many Labour cabinet members afraid to be walking into Salford streets to explain why Labour continue to get it wrong on we the public's behalf.
 
Arty wrote
at 10:20:28 on 21 September 2012
I'd bundle these bastards onto a bus , one with bars on the windows , destination prison.
 
Joe O'Neill wrote
at 17:44:28 on 20 September 2012
Pat Mr Stewart Like Mr Merry before him would refuse to walk amongst the crowds for a fear of being lynched,as a past councillor i invited Mr Merry to walk the Valley estate to see first hand the issues he refused,i asked Peter Conner to walk with me to see the housing issues instead he walked with the two other labour Councillors,they fear the anger on the streets,i tried desperatly to meet with the Stall holders on swinton precinct and Mr Antrobus,his answer if he met with me he would have to meet with the other 59 councillors. Labour in Salford are tribel they reap the allowances and fail to deal with tasks in hand,but the people of the city had the chance to change things and they buckled if they have a red rosette they get the vote,how sad Labour ditched it's own leader for someone turned down by Labour a man who was rejected for HAZEL Blears!! Well sow and you reap the rewards sadly for Salford you are putting in more seeds for a failed crop.
 
Jimmy Jewel wrote
at 12:13:57 on 20 September 2012
With one breat, Pat Ward, the leading independent candidate, and the most sparkling debutant of the recent mayoral election signals the slight possibility of a return to the political fray in Salford and already the air feels cleaner.
 
P . Irate . wrote
at 12:13:52 on 20 September 2012
Mayor Greedy Stewart and his inept mob of Assistant Assholes should take a walk .....along a plank into the sea. And that overpaid obscenity , Spicer , must join them ....
 
mary ferrer wrote
at 11:24:43 on 20 September 2012
First a bus turn of the city.From 2006 to 2010 when I was one of the ward Councillors for Claremont, we went on TWO tours of Claremont and Weaste.What happened NOTHING. No feedback as such,lots of TALK,lots of PROMISES,but nothing happened, a total waste of time and money. Scrutiny great word load of crap. Council make a decision and people don't agree you then call the decision in,take to the relevant scrutiny committee,you get the decision overturned,great,NO it then has to go to full council and they overturn the decision of the scrutiny. I don't think for one minute this will change. What ever they call the committees they will carry on doing what they want,with no thought for you and me.They now have very little opposition, so they can and will do what ever they want.They have to justify their allowances and as we haven't seen much action since May from our Mayor suppose this little white elephant will have to do for now. Mr Mayor has a problem answering emails I have been waiting over 3 months for some information and nothing.
 
Gareth L wrote
at 11:24:39 on 20 September 2012
Can we start a petition to have a referendum on removing the Mayor? The current Mayor seems to be as much use as a chocolate fire guard. So much for his election promises of openness and working with all parties. Can he be sued for breach of contract?
 
Winston Smith wrote
at 11:24:27 on 20 September 2012
The whole idea of an elected mayor was sour in the first place, it was always a forgone conclusion that it would be Labour. If somebody stuck a Labour rosette on a park bench people round here would start voting for it.
 
Winston Smith wrote
at 11:24:21 on 20 September 2012
Pat, you're right, but do not despair - the planets are all in alignment and the Mayor will be coming to life in public for a whole hour and outlining his Vision for Salford over cakes, on the lawn of the Civic Centre, on 22nd September. Pointlessluvlycakemunch-agement as the Mayor might call it.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 10:21:48 on 20 September 2012
Does the big idea of using a Bus Tour of Salford mean the £60,000 Salford Mayor jag and its driver can be sold to help pay to keep the Mental Health Care drop in centres open, or has the Mayor found new money to pay for a full Cabinet Big Bus Trip. Will all get treated to lunch during each visit. I am sorry but the whole idea of an elected mayor has gone sour, proving to be an added waste of money. It is nothing more that a political platform for Salford Labour Party. Any of the other candidates would have shaken the roost. Wake up, ditch these bus trips and start saving Salford Mental Health.
 
Peter Tully wrote
at 10:21:18 on 20 September 2012
My rotten tomatoes are at the ready.
 
Pat Ward wrote
at 08:55:33 on 20 September 2012
I would hope that after 5 months in the most influential post in Salford that Mr Stewart would have already been around the districts to meet with the residents he WORKS FOR and have an idea what is needed to make Salford great. I decided not to involve myself with Salford issues after the election and leave it to the professionals, but I find myself getting more frustrated with every article I read. There are so many issues that require a little time and effort to resolve yet nothing is being done. The Mayor stated that he needed time to find his feet before tackling the problems we all face in Salford, but how long will that take? Get out of the office and speak to people without the tired old method of using an information bus. Many councils make the same mistake, they know what the problems are but don't ask the right people for the solutions, they get a team of "professionals" to come up with innovative ideas. This takes months and does nothing to resolve issues. It could be a very ejoyable job to speak with local people and groups who have some fabulous ideas and projects for improving lives in Salford so Mr Stewart and his team should take a walk out, not a bus.
 
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