Star date: 22nd January 2013


"If I was the union leader…I couldn't possibly ask my members to agree to these things…" Ian Stewart, Salford City Mayor

As the ConDem Government chops another £24million from Salford City Council's budget, City Mayor Ian Stewart says that the cuts his Council is imposing "are going to affect real people with needs".

"I'm quite open to criticism about the judgement" he adds "as long as people accept that the judgement is made within the overall problem of the Coalition Government taking millions of pounds away from the people of this city."

The Mayor is certainly going to get plenty of criticism, with the first public campaign meeting scheduled for this Saturday, against cuts to support for deaf and visually impaired children.

Full details here…

Salford Council Cuts 2013-14 Salford Council Cuts 2013-14 Salford Council Cuts 2013-14
click image to enlarge

For details of the latest round of Salford Council cuts totalling £16.7million (not including £6.725 of cuts already announced) and Salford City UNISON reaction see previous Salford Star article – click here.

It's high noon last Friday and around a large table in the City Mayor's office sit Martin Vickers, the Council's Strategic Director for Customer and Support Services; Neil Thornton the Council's Chief Financial Officer; Bill Hinds Assistant Mayor for Finance and Support Services; the Mayor himself Ian Stewart and his PR man Matt Finnegan.

They're all ready for the press briefing on £16.712million of cuts – except that there's only two journalists here – a bloke from the Manchester Evening News, which had already run the details of the cuts in its morning edition (breaking an embargo), and, er, the Salford Star, which had not actually received an invite to the media event…but got in after complaints to the press office.

On the table are three wads of paper – two, quite rightly, blaming the ConDem Government in words and graphs for the cuts to Salford's services, and another with 17 pages worth of detail for cuts adding up to £16.712million in the year 2013-14, up to £18.955million by 2015-16.

We have less than a minute to digest the figures and Council explanations before Ian Stewart launches into a formal speech citing Government cuts of £100million over the last four years for the Council's woes…

"This has been heartbreaking" he says "We've worked as hard as we can to mitigate against these Coalition Government cuts. We have, where we can, minimised the impact on terms and conditions for staff, we have tried to mitigate and keep as low as possible job losses for staff and, of course, our primary concern was to try wherever possible to maintain the level of service to the people of this city. On all three counts we have done our best but I have to admit we have failed to be able to mitigate against the affect of the Government cuts to the level that we would have liked to.

"That means that, although we have the lowest job losses in Greater Manchester, we have amongst lowest reduction to services in Greater Manchester, and we will have certainly amongst the lowest council tax rise in Greater Manchester when we've concluded that, this is still a horrendous situation for the people of this city, and the responsibility for that lies fairly and squarely with the Coalition Government.

"The largest and most horrendous cuts will affect those who most need the services, that is a stark fact about the impact of Government cuts – we could not completely mitigate against cuts to vulnerable people even though we wanted to…"

A quick scurry through the 17 pages of figures is like seeing Salford going back to the  Thatcherite dark age of the 1980s in fast forward as the city's social safety net becomes unravelled…

£2.1million cut to the Looked After Children budget…£370,000 cut in the Joint Outcomes Fund which helps relieve family poverty… £300,000 cut to the Starting Life Well Team: `will lead to some reduction in support for vulnerable children aged 0-5'£750,000 cut to `Early Intervention and Prevention' which will see two children's centres closed at Barton Moss and Eccles, with `service reductions' in speech and language support and parenting programmes…plus more cuts to the Safeguarding Team, the Youth Offending Service, transport for kids with Special Education Needs and the subsidy for music teaching

…And these are just the first four pages, for cuts to Children's Services totalling £4.846million

From somewhere in the distance Ian Stewart's finishing his speech… "The big question for the people of this city is, `How do we deal with the macro issues which is at Government level?' In the meantime we are answerable to the people of this city and therefore I would invite questions from you…

The bloke from the Evening News picks up immediately on over £2million cuts to support for Salford's kids in care…particularly in light of the Council's past record in failing to safeguard vulnerable children…

Ian Stewart is quick to reassure him that it's a result of Salford now being `adequate', as opposed to `inadequate', in looking after kids…"As we become more successful in reducing the number of children who require those services, there is a reduced need. It's not about top slicing a budget it's more about there being a reduced number of children needing those services. Where those services need to be provided there will be the same quality of service…"

Martin Vickers adds that the number of kids needing the service is reducing because of the Council's investment into Early Prevention, and Ian Stewart adds that the city's nationally acknowledged children's centres – "the epitome of partnership working" - is the reason why there is a reducing number of children who need these services…

…Except that the Early Intervention programme is being cut and two children's centres are shutting down…Councillor Bill Hinds admits that "this is an area that could bite us in the backside and we would have to be ready for that…that's why we have reserves."

So, it's over to the Salford Star and it's like `Where do you start?' We complain that the Evening News printed the cuts details before unions and Council staff had been informed… "Neither am I too happy about that" says Ian Stewart "We expected that would go out after this meeting here…it was given out in a preparatory way so that the organisations could come, understanding what was going to be presented…"

So why didn't the Salford Star get it? "Well that's a different matter…" What? So we're discriminated against? "This is a budget briefing" moans PR man Matt Finnegan, the man in charge of messing up the press coverage. Council workers trade union, Salford City UNISON, demanded an apology from the Mayor in relation to the MEN story. 

"I have learned from this situation" says Ian Stewart "It will colour the way I do business in the future…"

We're told to ask questions on the detail of the cuts…One figure springs out – a £100,000 cut to Short Breaks funding. This is funding that allows vulnerable children to take short stays away from home at places like The Grange, giving carers some respite too. An incredibly important part of certain children's lives that usually goes below the radar of media coverage.

The explanation by the £100,000 cut states that there will be `no significant loss to service users as costs will be lowered'

"Oh I thought you'd major on the adults" says Ian Stewart

`Give us a chance', we say. We're only on page three of the cuts here…

"It is a real cut in that facility for young people to be able to have short breaks" he says "There isn't a person in Salford who would not want us to maintain those things but sadly it sometimes means that, with Government cuts, councils can't. That's why we lost The Salfordian hotel for adults' holidays, which is now run through a trust…This is not the loss of a complete facility but it is a bad affect on it and we openly admit that…but it's the provision of the holidays not the service or buildings."

So The Grange is safe? Martin Vickers confirms "The Grange is firmly staying and is part of our plans."

Ian Stewart is constantly at pains to point out that all these cuts are "caused by the Government reducing the money we have – if the government gives us the money that we should be entitled to in this city we will not make any cuts in our operations".

Anyone who's not living in Cloud Cuckoo Land (also known as the Tory Shires) knows it's the ConDem Government that is responsible for hammering those who can least afford reductions in services, rather than hammering the bankers et al as the wealth gap in the UK rises. Unfortunately, it's the Labour councils which are imposing the Government cuts that are going to get the brunt of protests.

Does it worry the Mayor that the first public campaign meeting against Council cuts is happening this Saturday to protest at reductions in teaching support for deaf and visually impaired children?*

"Of course it does, and if we weren't the decision makers at this level we would be running the campaign and supporting it, absolutely" he says "These are real cuts. They're going to affect real people with needs. We don't want that to happen but it is happening, therefore we're trying as best we can to minimise these cuts and their impact. This is an ongoing cut caused by the Government reducing the money we have. If  the Government gives us the money that we should be entitled to in this city we will not make any cuts in our operations.

"I'm quite open to criticism about the judgement as long as people accept that the judgement is made within the overall problem of the Government taking millions of pounds away from the people of this city" he adds "We will stand the criticism that we have made an error of judgement in a particular aspect but we will not stand criticism that we don't want to protect the interests of the people of this city."

If it's about judgement, there's a £35,000 cut to support for adults with learning difficulties – but the Council has recently spent £39,000 for some signs at Media City…

"You should be making your readers aware that a council is restricted by what is called capital spending, you can't vire it by law" the Mayor responds "Get me that power and I will exercise it…"

Okay, we wanted to add, what about the payments to staff and consultants supporting Salford City Reds...Oh, and your PR conssultant, Matt Finnegan himself – but the Mayor has already moved on…

"Of course any government would have to make cuts in the current global situation but this Coalition Government is making cuts too fast, too hard and too deep and they're not listening to local government as much as they should be – even when they have they've not acted hard enough in backing off from the cuts that they've made."

But the vast majority of these cuts are aimed at the most vulnerable people in Salford…

"We spend most of our money on the vulnerable so when we make cuts it's going to hit them" says Bill Hinds, adding that up until recently 72p out of every £1 was spent by the council on social services and education.

"Let's be clear" explains Ian Stewart "We are an old city in industrial decline; we have over the years tried to stop that decline but we still have levels of deprivation that are amongst the highest in the country, and once you start to apportion funds then you apportion funds to the most needy and this Council has a proud record of doing that.

"This council had the best nursery provision in the whole of the country and the Labour Government adopted that system for the whole country" he adds "This council has protected the adult residents who need care, way above most authorities in the country… The problem is that the depth of recent cuts and what's coming means that that level of investment in those services is not sustainable. We have to cut across all services."

So why aren't you and the Assistant Mayors not taking a cut in wages?

"What makes you think we're not?" he responds.
It's not on these cuts details

"It's a pertinent question" he says "What I do in relation to my own terms and conditions is something that's not fixed to this but may be of interest to you in the future…"

We wait with baited breath. But in the meantime, how does the Mayor think the unions will react to 151 job losses plus more cuts in services?

"If I was the union leader, even if we'd come in at much less than this, I couldn't possibly ask my members to agree to these things" he surprisingly states "Why should workers or the public, or the opposition politicians at national level accept the rationale that this Government has done. All we can do, unless we can see a different government at national level with a different strategy, is our best to mitigate against them.

"The biggest cut is in the service for adult people who need care, that's heartbreaking in itself" he adds.

£1million is being axed from the Adult Social Care budget over the next three years. Salford was one of the few councils in the country which supported people with `Moderate' (Level 2) needs. Now it will only support those with `Substantial' (Level 3) needs…

"Just because we re-designate people Level 2 doesn't mean they don't need the care, they will suffer because of that" he explains "We don't want that to happen. These are good things that we do here, but these are real cuts affecting real people."

Someone comes in the room and says there's only five minutes left. But we haven't even started hardly – we're only onto page 5 of the cuts details…

There's still a £850,000 cut to residential care for adults, shoving them out into `care in the community' (wasn't that Thatcher's mantra?)…there's still the £450,000 cut to day care services hanging over from last year…there's £1.26million being lost from NHS budgets and £345,000 from the Public Health budget being transferred over to the Council in the health service changes…There's £1.5million being axed from the refuse service£100,000 slashed from cleaning budgets for Council buildings…Three ranger posts are going to save £93,000

And on and on it goes…Parks and Cemeteries will remain unlocked at night to save £56,000, while maintenance for parks and open spaces is being slashed by £215,000Taxi licence fees are going to rise to bring in £50,000… £465,000 is being slashed from the Highways budget…£300,000 saved in transport subsidies for MediaCityUK…reductions in opening hours at museums and art galleries, including Ordsall Hall, and volunteers will be sought `to undertake certain aspects of leisure and culture delivery' (eg libraries) …

151 jobs are going and £1.6million is being slashed in a `workforce reform' proposal which includes a pay freeze for senior management but no pay cuts for top earners like Chief Exec Barbara Spicer… All in all £16.712million of cuts this coming financial year, on top of £6.725million already announced.

"Your readers can play a role" says Ian Stewart "What we need now is the public to tell us whether our judgement of how to get that level of £24m in total is right; whether there's something we've missed. We are now open to consultation, we are now open to listen. We genuinely have an open mind and where we can mitigate against any of these we will do, there is a willingness to do that. Where it's shown to us that it can be done a different way, and there is no reason why we shouldn't do it a different way, we will be open to doing that.

`You could always stick two fingers up to the ConDems and refuse to implement these cuts', we'd like to say. But time has run out...

"I must ask you for a balanced approach in reporting" he pleads "We are making our best efforts to safeguard services…"

We can only be balanced, the Star responds, if the Council talks to us, answers our questions and provides information…otherwise we would conclude that the Council and Mayor are trying to keep its own community in the dark…

 As yet there is no information on the budget consultation on Salford Council's website. We have been assured that this will appear very shortly www.salford.gov.uk

 Public Meeting against Salford Council plans to reduce services for some of the most vulnerable disabled children in Salford, backed by Salford City UNISON and Salford Deaf Society…

Saturday 26th January 11am at Swinton British Legion, 3 Cheetham Road, M27 4UQ. Click here for further details

Photo of Ian Stewart by Gareth Lyons

Joe Oneill wrote
at 07:23:52 on 25 January 2013
I wonder Outsider would I be presumptuous to think you may be a Labour supporter or Local Cllr, why not stick your name up? I really hate people who seem to have a point of view but seem concerned about putting their birth name to it.
Outsider wrote
at 17:37:15 on 24 January 2013
Well Insider--I guess that they have to look at the Salford Star to find out what is going on as I cannot see this "transparent and open" council letting them know. If that 1000 spent 6 minutes a week of their working week looking at this website, that is 6000 minutes or 100 hours OR 2 1/2 full time jobs. BEWARE!
Notatrot wrote
at 06:05:37 on 24 January 2013
This is just bonkers stuff.
salford pimpernel wrote
at 20:38:50 on 23 January 2013
@ insider. sorry to hear about the loss of your job,the people who put us in this shit should be the ones who lose there jobs, merry and co. but as always it's the ones at the bottom who do the real work who pay the price for their incompetence
Winston Smith wrote
at 13:06:17 on 23 January 2013
@Onlooker - the "reasoned, sensible alternative" to what the council are doing is Democracy. To be clear, I mean government by the People, not government by a self serving political Party, who happen to have enough power to always get elected, just to do their own thing, regardless of what the consensus is. If the people want *services* but the council spend the money on *rugby clubs and orchestras*, not only have the council made a big bumbling shit of it, they are being purposefully and demonstrably anti-democratic (and should therefore by tried for treason in my opinion).
Insider wrote
at 06:00:47 on 23 January 2013
Ian Stewart's comment on balanced reporting means don't blow the whistle on what is really happening at the council, and how we are in the pocket of Peel, the bbc and many others. Time for a few home truths. Overpaid £299k Scary Spicer who has rolled over for Biffo Lancaster and Scruffy Merry for years failing to do her job as we see in the shady dealings of Salford Reds. Martin Vickers got a job in his home county of Yorkshire but because he is a telented manageR ( a legend in his own lunchbox) Biffo gave him an extra £10k to stay in Salford. The Salfordonian charity - what a joke! its Biffo Lancaster and Hinds private holiday home. The council subsidise this charity and have a full time highly paid oficer paid for by council funds to run it. Hinds former leader of the council is a closet capitalist with holiday homes on the Algarve he rents out for profit. A cut in wages and alowances for the numerous assistant mayors, do nothing Dennet, im importnat Stone , Mike Antrobullshit etc - whats needed is a cut in the number of salaried assistant mayors. Time to get real Mr Stewart and do what you were elected for - sort this mess out! Thnak god this month I have been made redundant - Ill do my best to keep you aware of the real going on of this clowncil. PS Spicer has asked IT servcies to look at how many council officers look at the Salford Star - its up to and over a 1000 a week!
Mary Ferrer wrote
at 06:00:36 on 23 January 2013
I am sure if Mr Mayor,Lancaster,Hines and the rest of the bloody idiots wanted to they could save money and not at a cost to the most vulnerable members of the community,but that will never happen. I do so like their buzz word "CONSULTATION" As if they will take any notice of what we say.I would like to ask MR Mayor and the rest of his sidekicks,Where is the list of all the Council spends of over £500, been keeping that one quiet. Also What are you doing Mr Mayor about getting the monies from your list of LONG TERM DEBTORS and I don't just mean the REDS I mean ALL THE LONG TERM DEBTORS. May I also suggest WE stop the hand outs to the BBC Orchestra, the Lowry,grants for the MANCHESTER FESTIVAL,to name a very few. I am sure we could work on a nice list of NOT so important crap you and your cronies have NOT made cuts on and maybe that way we won't have to hit the most vulnerable members of our city so hard. But that will never happen. STOP spending OUR money on crap and get your house in order.
Onlooker wrote
at 05:56:15 on 23 January 2013
Totally naive. Do you want us to do a Militant and bankrupt the city? Have commissioners come in and do even worse?The people of Salford would pay the price for your political showboating. It would make matters worse. Grow up and offe a reasoned, sensible alternative and we might listen. Toy town politics again.
Salford Pimpernel wrote
at 05:56:01 on 23 January 2013
( "The big question for the people of this city is, `How do we deal with the macro issues which is at Government level?' In the meantime we are answerable to the people of this city and therefore I would invite questions from you…) INEPT, INCOMPETENT, WANKERS, how can this bunch of shisters who sold this city to it labour crony friends over the years now start saying their answerable to the people of Salford, sorry Mr Stuart if you and your cohorts at swine-town would of listened to the people of Salford years ago we would not be in the shit we are now in, only difference we haven't got £70 grand and a comfy chair to fall back on. ( Ian Stewart is constantly at pains to point out that all these cuts are "caused by the Government reducing the money we have – if the government gives us the money that we should be entitled to in this city we will not make any cuts in our operations".) SORRY THE MONEY WE ARE ENTITLED TO, as I have said on another page, the money we get off the government is supposed to be spent on the citizens of this city, I don't think this government looking at this council and the way this labour controlled council has spent our money on private businesses and businessmen would take the same view, and I am sorry to say this but a council that can do the above can afford to tighten it's belt, but it is going to come at the expense of the poorest in this city, and only this labour council can take the full blame for this, when it comes to spending other peoples money on brain dead idea's, this labour council has no equal. ( "Let's be clear" explains Ian Stewart "We are an old city in industrial decline; we have over the years tried to stop that decline but we still have levels of deprivation that are amongst the highest in the country, and once you start to apportion funds then you apportion funds to the most needy and this Council has a proud record of doing that.) APPORTION FUNDS TO THE MOST NEEDY, HIGH LEVELS OF DEPRIVATION, can't stop laughing at this one 42+ years of labour rule in Salford, let's think who's the needy in Salford er... that right Salford reds er..fountains er.. proms in the park er... limo with driver for the lord mayor er.. peel holdings er...Barbara Spicer £210,000 a year wage, oh lets not forget tescos, I think the takings were a little down this Christmas, only going to make a couple of billion this year, ho and don't worry Mr Salford we can't forget you can we, whilst this lot were screwing the Salford tax payer with this labour controlled council and very obedient labour councillors help, (must have all got ear plugs and blind folds for Christmas to help when their in council meetings) you would think this labour council would put the deprived, the poor at the top of the list when it comes to giving out our money, but the poor are not going to look after our labour councillors when they are finally found out and get kicked out of office are they, but the ones they helped get richer will. and lets not forget they have a proud record of this. ( "Your readers can play a role" says Ian Stewart "What we need now is the public to tell us whether our judgement of how to get that level of £24m in total is right; whether there's something we've missed. We are now open to consultation, we are now open to listen. We genuinely have an open mind and where we can mitigate against any of these we will do, there is a willingness to do that. Where it's shown to us that it can be done a different way, and there is no reason why we shouldn't do it a different way, we will be open to doing that.)READ "WE'VE" FCUK UP AND WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I think Mr Stuart your £1hundred million to late for this one, and as for your judgement I wouldn't trust you lot with my nieces piggy bank, why do you ask us for our opinions now Mr Stuart, when for the last 40+ year you turned a deaf ear to us, getting a bit hot in that £70,000 a year seat, seems you and your cohorts are now looking around for some one else to take the blame, as I am now beginning to feel sorry for you, I am going to try and help you Mr Stuart, first you need to hire a coach and you need to take your self and all your labour councillors on this coach and drive down to hope hospital and ask one of the surgeons to transplant a backbone in to you and all your labour councillors friends, after this has been done you can all use your newly acquired backbones to tell PEEL HOLDINGS, SALFORD REDS, MR SALFORD, TESCOS, BARBARA SPICER AND ALL THE OTHER PARASITES THAT INHABIT THIS COUNCIL...... TO FCUK OFF, you could also try having only one councillor per ward instead of three.no point paying for three brain dead councillors when you only need one, people of Salford wont notice any change?. still no answer from our caring/listening councillor Tom Murpthy
Joe Oneill wrote
at 22:02:04 on 22 January 2013
For four years I sat with Councillor Norman Owen I took on the role of his Budget Spokesman, but make no mistakes you being of part of a party it allows you the right to meet with the city treasurer but it offers little to your line of questioning unless you have all the facts, and to be honest unless you did not have your friendly mole you struggled. Most budget scrutiny meetings fed only the same information piece meal week in week out, check out the budget papers yourself they are on line. But we went through the process and offered Labour alternatives for what it was worth, they complain today over the money cut from the city but even in the good times when their LABOUR MASTERS were running the country they wasted a small fortune ,the BBC comes to the top of any list. If anyone had taken the time to read Manchester Labours bid it fell at the first hurdle to expand they would have had to buy large section of land in the city centre and the cost would have been out of the question, both bids had the £2 million a year for the orchestra which in my mind is a total waste. The Loans to our local rugby club where questionable to say the least, The city at the time was running one of the worst sick records and little was done to counter the issue, we lost large parts of a management structure which begs the question were they needed? And the money spent on consultants by Labour was obscene, but still even though we face some of the worst austerity measure ever set in place by national Government labour still waste cash. With the Election of Ian Stewart I thought he would have taken on Barbara Spicers Role he did not, I thought we would have ceased the role of ceremonial mayor we did not and the amount of people on the Labour benches taking allowances for roles with made up names such as the assistant mayor for international relations is an obscenity in itself. The sad part is with the demise of the Liberal Democrats they is no opposition on the council, the Tories will not fight their political masters and Labour will carry on regardless. Who’s to blame? well in reality us the Salford electorate we have destroyed Labours opposition with the disgusting level of apathy and only today when benefits are being cut and jobs are going we are sitting up and thinking Christ what’s going on let’s hope where not too late. Because a party whose only policy statements are to blame the Tories are a failed party and reading the Stars article I think LABOUR and Mr Stewart is running out of ideas
at 15:53:53 on 22 January 2013
Yeah the cuts that 13 years of his overspending government forced upon whichever responsible government succeeded them a bit like the man said in the comment afore mine we could start with Stewart's salary for doing we know not what-save for fighting a rear guard action on the sins of his Party's tenure. I do not remember a single interjection from Stewart while he was an MP on behalf of the residents of Kersal Langwoirthy or Higher Broughton when the Blair and Brown governments were redirecting public funds to Urban Splash Countryside properties et al at the expense of 100 year -old Salford communities.
Winston Smith wrote
at 10:59:56 on 22 January 2013
I suggest we have a whip round for the Mayor and buy him a new scapegoat, his ConDem one is well worn out. Why the f*** are we paying this man £70,000 per year to just keep bleating on about government cuts? For the last fekkin time: WE KNOW WE KNOW WE KNOW WE KNOW. Now get a spine and get on with your bleeding job, whatever that is
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