Councillor Peter Connor, the Assistant Mayor with responsibility for Adult Social Services, whose decision it is to slash £80,000 from Salford's Mental Health Services, was due to hold a public surgery at St Aidan Church in his ward of Kersal this evening. Over a dozen service users, carers, trade unionists and activists turned up to lobby him...
Over recent weeks, they had met City Mayor, Ian Stewart, and Labour Leader, Ed Miliband to discuss the cuts. Surely a local councillor wouldn't be that hard to get an audience with?
While the campaigners waited for over half an hour in the rain, Councillor Connor didn't show up for his advertised public surgery. The doors of St Aidan were locked and a local youth leader who normally opens up said he'd received a phone call saying that the surgery for the three Kersal ward councillors – Connor, Humphries and Wilson - was not happening.
After a while, however, a surprised Councillor George Wilson arrived to be met with the protest…
"I came to do my surgery and didn't expect this" he said "Actually it's nice to see that so many people care."
Did he know where Councillor Connor was? "I've no idea unless he's got another appointment" he replied "There's three ward councillors and I've come down as one of them but I can't speak for the other two councillors. He was due here, yes, so whether he's been delayed…"
Did he think that Councillor Connor might have bottled it? "Peter never bottles anything…"
Given that there was no Councillor Connor in sight, what did Councillor Wilson think of the campaign against the planned cuts to Mental Health Services?
"I think it's tremendous that people care" he said "Without carers in the community we'd be buggered…"
And the drop-in closures? "That's not my decision; that's for other people who are more powerful than me" he explained "I'd retain them but that's just me speaking."
That's two Labour Councillors – Councillor Wilson and Councillor Peter Wheeler - who have gone public in the last two days to oppose the Mental Health Service cuts by the Labour Council. The Salford Star understands that Salford MP, Hazel Blears, will be visiting a drop-in group next week and might possibly go public with her support for the campaign.
Councillor Peter Connor and Mayor, Ian Stewart, are looking increasingly isolated in their plans to cut services for some of Salford's most vulnerable people. Indeed, tonight, Councillor Connor just looked…invisible…as campaigners held up the notice to passers by… `Councillor Connor's Invisible Surgery'…
"This, unfortunately, is democracy in Labour's heartland, that Councillor Connor hasn't turned up for an advertised surgery" said Paul Gerrard from Salford Against The Cuts "It could be possibly to do with the fact that Salford Star advertised the protest that would be taking place tonight. Nevertheless, we welcome Councillor Wilson's support."
* The Salford Star has e-mailed Councillor Connor asking him why he didn't show up for his surgery and if he has a message for the campaigners. We are waiting to hear from him…
For more background on the campaign and the cuts see previous Salford Star article – click here and follow the links
UPDATE: 1:30pm 4th October
Councillor Connor has responded via Salford City Council, his spokesperson explaining that "Councillor Humphreys is the only Kersal Ward Councillor who holds a Ward Surgery at St Aidan’s Church. However, having checked the website, I can understand where the confusion has arisen. Our web team are currently taking steps to rectify this to avoid any confusion occurring in the future."
Which doesn't really explain when, where and if CouncillorConnor does actually do his surgery. And neither does it explain why Councillor Wilson turned up to do the surgery...
Photo by Phil Hamer