Dear Mr City Mayor Stewart
Thank you for sending us this delightful 24 page booklet about how you are going to `Connect Salford'. It all sounds lovely but the Salford Star feels that you and your wannabe connected community should know a few home truths.
You say you would like to hear our views "about what sort of city you would like Salford to be and what you expect from your City Mayor and local council".
You say, Mr Mayor, that "I believe in a better connection between local residents, politicians professional council officers, partner organisations, community organisations and groups"… Well, Mr Mayor, you seem to have left out the press, but the Salford Star is an official community group so we'll let you off.
The Salford Star is not in the business of providing blueprints for the City but what we try and do is provide information to Salford's citizens so that they can make judgements for themselves. Unfortunately, Mr Mayor, since you've been elected this has been virtually impossible. Because what you and your Council is doing, day-to-day, is actually disconnecting your citizens.
Back in June we cited how the gates of democracy have been shut since your announcement on being elected that "I will seek to generate…openness and transparency in future…"
We revealed how "virtually none of the 13 Assistant Mayors have made their activities public and open to scrutiny" (click here for full details). It's now October and nothing has happened. Your last `City Issues Briefing' meeting on October 1st had no items open to the public, while the public was excluded from the Part 2 item. There's been no public `Mayoral Team Meeting' since July.
Your `Finance and Support Services Assistant Mayor's Briefing' to take place on Monday 8th October has no public items. Your `Housing and Environment Assistant Mayor's Briefing' and your `Health and Wellbeing Assistant Mayor's Briefing' have never taken place. We could go on and on.
The Salford Star has actually lost count of the amount of times we've had to request publicly available documents that should be included in agendas for meetings on your website. Indeed the RSS feed for your meetings and decisions is actually derelict and hasn't been working since the end of July/early August.
Is this what you mean by `Connected Council' – "A wealth of information is available through our highly rated website etc…"?
"We must" you add "make sure that we are efficient with the use of new technologies and that most importantly our residents and businesses benefit from this digital revolution"…
So what does the `digital revolution' mean to John Mullen, your Assistant Mayor for Technology? He's tweeted exactly three times since May – a big debate with John Merry about the relative merits of Stingray and Fireball XL5. Does `Connected Communities' mean we can all join in the best puppet show debate?*
Perhaps, in the real world, you can make sure that your Assistant Mayors actually turn up to their advertised surgeries with their constituents – unlike the invisible Assistant Mayor for Adult Services, Councillor Peter Connor (click here).
Perhaps in the real world you can ensure that your press office actually answers questions from the Salford Star, instead of putting them in the bin – so that we can help you to connect with your community Mr Mayor.
Perhaps you can even get your press office to answer our question about how much the Connecting Salford booklet actually cost! We're having to force it out of you through the Freedom of Information Act...
Meanwhile, it's not until page 21 of your Connecting Salford booklet - when everyone's asleep - that you talk about the £35million cuts Salford Council is about to make over the next two years. You ask what kind of City people want? We can give you the answer to that – try one without cuts to services, Mr Mayor. If you can't save basic services everything else is meaningless.
Unfortunately, Salford people have been subjected to vision document after vision document, consultation after consultation, pledge after pledge…and still nothing happens. The stats for poverty rates, unemployment, housing shortages etc never go down. Only up.
If you seriously want to Connect with Salford, Mr Mayor, perhaps you can start with the basic `openness and transparency' that you promised on being elected. It's been almost six months and we're still waiting…
• See John Mullen's ace Twitter feed – click here to join the great Stingray v Fireball XL5 debate. We're sure NASA will be impressed.