Star date: 3rd March 2013


Gena Merrett, Salford City Council's Assistant Mayor for Housing, has launched an astonishing attack on the Salford Star via her website.

In the article she accuses the Salford Star, an independent community media group, of being a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'" and further accuses the Star of producing a housing story that was "far from accurate".

Click here to read the Salford Star's reply…

Dear Gena Merrett

One of our readers has made us aware of an article that has appeared on your website today entitled `The Salford Star and rent rises – the truth', which accuses this fiercely independent community media group of being a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'" (see here).

You add that the "Salford Star has never been one to let the truth or accuracy get in the way of a good story that might help to support these aims" and use as an example "its story this week purporting that the Council have put up rents to inflict misery on tenants as a way of balancing the freeze on council tax was typically far from accurate".

Let's take these one at a time. Firstly, the Salford Star has never, ever, publicly supported any political party in Salford because that would make us Political with a capital P. Such accusations would appear to make you Paranoid. With a capital P.

Even when Salford Council's Cabinet tried to block devolved community funding for the Salford Star, and did an in depth analysis of our content in both print and online, it found no evidence of any support for any political party. Perhaps you would like to show us an example to back up your accusation?

If you mean support for the Salford Against The Cuts campaign - which, if you hadn't noticed, is not a political party - then yes, of course we back it. Salford Against The Cuts is a campaign that supports any community organisation or members of Salford Council's own workforce who have been victims of the cuts. Some of your own Labour Party councillors have been very vocal within those campaigns too – perhaps they want to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party' too?

If you mean support for the Salford Council workers trade union, Salford City UNISON, that is also standing up against cuts to public services and jobs, then, yes, we'll gladly admit to that too. Although we didn't know that UNISON wants to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party' as well. UNISON is actually one of the biggest supporters of the Labour Party.

It seems that anyone or any community group that dares to criticise, campaign or try to hold this current Council to account is being branded `extreme left wing' or apologists for the ConDem Govermment... Perhaps you'd like to say that to Salford Park Rangers, Salford Museum and Art Gallery workers and Home Care workers currently campaigning for their jobs, or mums of kids with disabilities, or mental health service users campaigning for their services?

What was it your new spin doctor, Matt Finnegan, said in the Manchester Evening News recently? Let us remind you of what he said when he was being criticised for taking an equivalent salary of £66,000 a year, while the Council is cutting jobs and services. He said "I expect to be attacked by Tories and Trotskyists".

Well, that would make 99% of Salford's population `Tories and Trotskyists'!

Indeed, your spin doctor trying to slur anyone who questions him is an absolute disgrace; and your slur on the Salford Star as a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party" is an untrue, attempted slur on our contributors and directors.

Indeed, the slurs are coming thick and fast at the moment, with comments regularly being posted on the Star website accusing us of `planting' comments in our favour. Again, totally untrue, scandalous, libellous rubbish.

We're also getting accused of `inaccurate' reporting. It all seems to be part of a concerted campaign against the Salford Star, which, coincidentally, has only started since spin doctor Finnegan took media command at the Council. Is this now Labour Party policy in Salford?

Which brings us to your second slur. You write that the "Salford Star has never been one to let the truth or accuracy get in the way of a good story", adding "Its story this week purporting that the Council have put up rents to inflict misery on tenants as a way of balancing the freeze on council tax was typically far from accurate."

Perhaps if you'd actually read the article (see here) you might have noticed that it was a Salford resident, put into extreme poverty by rent increases, the Bedroom Tax and Council Tax Benefit cuts, who said that, not the journalist who wrote the article.

But, hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good slag off of the Salford Star? While we're at it, though, let's actually look at what you write and the reality of the situation.

You write that "In fact, additional costs to Salford tenants above inflation will all be the result of decisions imposed by central government over which the council have no sway".

If you'd read the original Salford Star article on the rent rises (see here) you might have noticed that we did actually state that "It's part of Central Government's `convergence' of social rents that will see average social rents rise from £67.95 in 2012 to £73.74 by 2015".

We also added that on the Council report about the rent rises there was an option to reduce rents by 1%. Subsequent minutes of the Council meeting at which that report was discussed, and which you attended, show that the rent increase was questioned by fellow Assistant Mayors, and that the Council did actually have `sway' over the decision.

The resident quoted in the Salford Star report did have a point. Just to clear this up, let us quote to you some of the minutes of that rent increase meeting…

* Councillor Dennett spoke of his concerns, of how the proposed increase will affect certain groups the hardest, and he queried the robustness of the methodology used as to whether it has taken into consideration the present economic downturn.

* Members requested the opportunity to consider the Housing Revenue Account in more detail, to see whether savings can be sought from elsewhere to ensure a balanced account.

* Members asked what the impact would be if a lesser increase was agreed. In response, the Chief Financial Officer informed Cabinet that should a lesser rent and service charge be considered appropriate, then it will have a number of consequences, including the loss of income to HRA; there will be a requirement to catch up with convergence in future years, making increases higher than they might otherwise be and income would fall below that assumed when the government implemented self-financing (on which our debt settlement was based).

*Due to concerns raised, Members suggested a delay in agreeing the proposed increase to allow more time to consider various elements to the rent convergence.

Gina Merrett, you really want to get your facts right before slinging mud at the Salford Star, or any other group or individual for that matter.

So, let's see… You accuse the Star of being a "key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'". Not true.

You accuse the Salford Star of producing the rent article that is "typically far from accurate". Again. Not true.

Attempting to discredit the Salford Star is becoming a pastime within Salford Council at the moment – what with Mayor Ian Stewart accusing us of `lies' (see here), anonymous e-mails from your `neutral' press office accusing us of negativity (see here) and now you with your unfounded allegations.

Perhaps you'd be better off spending your time attacking the ConDem Government and standing up for your own residents than attacking an independent, voluntary, community centred media group.

We look forward to your reply.

With attitude and love xxx
Stephen Kingston
Salford Star

not happy wrote
at 07:32:38 on 09 March 2013
I think I have a bit of a problem understand dept/ass Mayor Gena Merrit’s intensions; she accuses the Salford Star of being a key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party yet what as she got to offer the labour party; She runs a company that offers A bespoke range of support is available including Quality assurance training for senior and middle leaders that enables effective line management to be embedded in the organisation. Senior and middle leadership development to build their capacity. this sounds like conflict of interests to me because it doesn’t sound like a job for a Dept/ass Mayor of the labour party more like a Tory Thatcherite
Irlam Resident wrote
at 17:06:17 on 08 March 2013
Having recently discovered Salford Star and being a Salford resident, it's very refreshing to see some genuine reporting and you can clearly see this in the way it is evidenced and written. Salford council need to stop acting like school children, by blaming others, and take action and responsibility for what they are paid good money to do. All I seem to see is Salford Council rolling over and getting their belly scratched by the large companies with cash i.e. Peel Holdings. who have very little interest in community, just making more money. And Please note, I am Real
Gareth Stowers wrote
at 12:03:20 on 06 March 2013
Is it not a councils job to listen to the people it represents? In my opinion the Salford Star is a valuable local resource that gives the people of Salford a place where we can openly air our views. If the council don't like whats said perhaps they can try listening to their electorate and maybe just maybe try making some changes in the direction that the people want.... I know it's novel the idea of a council actually listening to the people but I can dream.
debbie wrote
at 20:42:52 on 05 March 2013
Another 'nobody' jumping on the slag the ss off, put your money where your mouth is and sue then, won't hold my breath will probably go a funny shade of blue!
Winston Smith wrote
at 18:45:42 on 05 March 2013
Smears, lies and press manipulation have been in the Labour dirty weapons toolbox since at least the 90s. Google Damian McBride, Jo Moore, etc. What a shitty Party.
Bernard Brough wrote
at 16:36:26 on 05 March 2013
I'll type this very slowly because clearly some people who are not very quick. This magazine neither supports nor endorses any political party, left, right or centre. Got it?
not happy wrote
at 14:20:56 on 05 March 2013
Clearly the ‘Salford Star’ is not an ‘independent community based’ media or it would not be an open supporter of the left wing socialist workers’ group and would provide more balanced coverage of stories rather than resorting constantly to carping, negative and jargonistic rhetoric and over-used populist hackers’ language in words like ‘spindoctor.’ Luckily its circulation is small – I did get a lot of support for my post though!! Taken from Ms Merrets news letter, not only is she having ago at the Salford Star she’s having ago at the people that comment on the Stars news pages and saying that we are constantly carping, negative and other things how dare she call us just because we write comments on the Stars pages it gives us some thing to talk about by ether by praising the article or knocking it, which a lot of other papers wont do, so thanks to the Salford Star for freedom of speech
Paul Gerrard wrote
at 14:20:52 on 05 March 2013
Gena Merrett walked past the Salford against Cuts and UNISON protests outside the town hall last Wednesday and saw some of us selling the Socialist. If that keeps her awake at night,tough, she'd better get used to it. But it is an outrageous slur on the work of the Salford Star to suggest that it is in any way aligned to the Socialist Party. It isn't and those of us in the Socialist Party wouldn't wish it to be. It is an independent website, valued as such by huge swathes of public opinion in Salford, and long may it flourish, to Cllr Merrett's eternal discomfort. There is a story to be written one day about her personal involvement (yes, a Labour councillor) in the ConDem government's attempts to forcibly academise schools locally. She might like to give us her side of that story first.
Gareth L wrote
at 11:33:16 on 05 March 2013
I've wrote to Ed Milliband asking for him to make her resign. I'm not holding my breath for an answer. If any one else wants to take my course of action his email (according to the Houses of Parliament website) is ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk
m3 wrote
at 10:11:34 on 05 March 2013
In one fell swoop Gena Merrett has alienated me and my friends from the labour party by slandering our beloved (and only investigative newspaper left) Salford Star. Never again am I voting labour - in any election. These superficial and paranoid comments sound like someone with miniscule awareness of and knowledge about Salford people they are meant to represent. Salford people are intellectuals Gena - they won't believe your silly ramblings.
David Henry wrote
at 06:58:31 on 05 March 2013
I can't help but laugh, it sounds like someone was having a really bad hair day! Utter-tosh stolen direct from the iron-tongue of the likes of the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears. From my own experience as someone who has been a political activist involved with at least two 'fringe parties' in this city, I have seen this kind of bitter rhetoric and mis-association used before. It is a clever-old political trick used to defuse any platform that gives a platform to the voices of public dissent. It is an ugly manifestation fed by paranoia. Salford Star should definitively take any evidence of the-powers-that-be throwing their dummy at them as a compliment of the highest sort! There's nothing moderate about "New Labour". I can't think of any other political party in recent history that has led this country into an illegal war - against the wishes of it's people. The "unelected-Deputy Mayor for Housing" should note that the Salford Star is the ONLY original remaining true Salfordian paper. With the Advertiser closing it's offices in her own ward of Eccles, not before swallowing up a number of other titles.
Fed up of Irwell Riverside Councillors wrote
at 06:58:27 on 05 March 2013
Who does she think she is Gena "The Pillock" Merrett., Your a Disgrace Councillor.
mary ferrer wrote
at 06:58:16 on 05 March 2013
If this council hadn't done these things in the first then it would not be on your site. Everything you have put in print is the truth,what is wrong with this woman. Is she and the rest of her well paid comrades getting a wee bit worried. I so wish the Star had the funds to get all this out on the streets of Salford. Keep up the good work.
Gary Duke wrote
at 21:53:28 on 04 March 2013
I was immediately impressed by Ms Merret's eye for detail and her innate ability to spell Stephen 'Hingston's' name correctly. Given such keen observational powers, will almost certainly ensure that I will believe everything she says in future.
Steven North wrote
at 20:09:05 on 04 March 2013
Well written Salford Star. The arrogance of these people is astounding and it will one day be their downfall. And as for Ray Walker's comments, I can tell you that his views are completely at odds with the current Salford UNISON leadership. We think the Star does a great job and are always grateful that it is willing to tell the story of ordinary Salford people, including the Council's workforce - the majority of whom live in this city and deserve the voice the Star gives them.
Sue,grabbitandrun wrote
at 20:02:27 on 04 March 2013
Go on and sue her then? I won't be holding my breath..
Alice Searle wrote
at 18:18:28 on 04 March 2013
The Council is really alienating itself from the community. When a member feels so threatened by the truth that she has to blacken the name of the 'speaker of truth' then she is very frightened and on the defensive. It is no good blaming 'this Government' all the time. Everyone knows about the Condem Government's pressure being put upon all Councils. People do not need to hear this reason all the time. What they want to hear is some anger from their Council and some refusal to conform. Fewer high status promotions would be well received and if any of the highly paid officers gave up half of their salary as an act of solidarity this would show some empathy. To me £66,000, for Ian Stewart's PR person, is obscene, especially when he can't even write a reply to the letters sent to Ian Stewart. I hear nothing but angry and disappointed comments about the Council. To attack the Star, which acts as 'the voice of Salford' will only make you Ms Merritt and the Council even more unpopular.
Silo breaker wrote
at 15:46:59 on 04 March 2013
How dare you I am a regular contributor on the SS and on many issues would be considered more right wing than Jarzinio.(Brazillian Number 11 circa 1970) I write for the SS because it is a forum and outlet in which to expose, highlight and disseminate a wide range of policies, legislation and diktats that affect the lives of Salford people adversely or unfairly. You the ruling Labour party come into the cross-hairs of the SS rifle of truth due to the fact you have ruled Salford uninterrupted and for too long have coalesced with big business and central government to destroy our communities to reach targets and tick your boxes, with scant regard to the effect they have on human beings you are the party of inane bureaucracy. If you were not a political party you would be a blind giraffe totally useless and a fucking nuisance in a city environment.
Curious wrote
at 14:53:54 on 04 March 2013
David, do you know when the six are up before the courts again, last i read the case was adjored on 5th feb to be heard at a later date? P.s Salford star if i win the euro tommorow i will give you the money to pursue Mrs Merrett in the courts. Pray for me.
barrywoodling wrote
at 14:33:13 on 04 March 2013
This attack on the Salford Star by Gena Merrett is incredulous. As a citizen journalist who writes for an investigative magazine called "Northern voices" I would like to commend the Salford Star for the depth and accuracy of its articles and reports on Salford City Council.
berlinbernd wrote
at 14:33:09 on 04 March 2013
"key supporter of an extreme left-wing political party that aims to 'smash The Labour Council and the Labour Party'" It sounds not too bad, a little bit like a certificate of merit. Your replay - really well done! Cheers, Bernd
Bernard Brough wrote
at 14:32:31 on 04 March 2013
In my previous post I should have mantionaed that I am a director of the Salford Star and take these accuastions personally. I offer Ms Merrett the chance to withdraw her statement. I note that not only has a comment that is libelous remains on Ms Merrett's website, another making the same wild claim has appeared. Will Ms Merrett see to it that those offensive and untrue posts are removed?
David wrote
at 13:54:03 on 04 March 2013
Ms Merrett should look to her own Labour colleagues on the council, 6 of which are now defending a libel case brought against them by member of the public, for the rubbish they printed. The 6 hired the countries top libel barrister and tried to pay for it using council tax money, until the council was told this not legal. Now they are going to have to pay their own legal bill!!!!
not happy wrote
at 13:53:56 on 04 March 2013
Yet again we have another whinging councilor saying how good Salford council is. I think she has been listening to her own lies or told what to say like the way they are told to vote before they go into the meetings. So please don’t go accusing the Salford Star of supporting an extreme left-wing political party because I’ve been to council meetings where the Salford Star have been and all they have done is reported the facts. True Salford Star has reported on(S A C) and (U S U C) these are not political party’s just Salfordeans protesting against the cuts. So SALFORD HOUSING ASSISTANT MAYOR GENA MERRETT, why don’t you try to help the people of Salford? By dropping the bedroom tax, you could do this by doing what some other local councils have done; this can be done by down sizing the number of bed rooms or would that be telling lies, but this would help some of the people in Salford and reduce hard ship.
Sigmund wrote
at 13:53:45 on 04 March 2013
again, just really nasty, offensive comments. These people are so full of hate, they need some serious counselling
Sue L wrote
at 12:35:14 on 04 March 2013
joe oneill wrote
at 12:35:08 on 04 March 2013
Out break of foot in mouth in Salford Reports are coming in of Swinton South Labour Councillors coming down with foot in mouth,first symptoms have already been confirmed the normal rash comment follows by outbursts regarding the Salford Star and it’s readers.We are unsure of a cure so stay as far away as possible the infection could be contagious.
Bernard Brough wrote
at 12:35:00 on 04 March 2013
Ms Merrett, so nice nice to know that you take such heed of our seditious publication. The fact that such a busy politician can take time out to read our pages and, let's be frank, get so upset by them brings a warm glow to my heart. I would like to ask a couple of questions though. First would you care to name the "extreme left wing party" that his publication supports? Second would you care to provide some proof to your wild accusation? Though I wont hold my breath awaiting your reply. Since it's inception the Salford Star has endorsed no political party, I'm sure that if we had then somebody, somewhere would have pointed this out. You might also care to note that this magazine is written by the people of Salford. The articles are brought to us by people who have no other outlet, the mainstream local media being too in thrall to local councils to dare criticise them. Having read the comments on your site I note that there is an accusation that Mr Kingston plants comments on the Salford Star site. This is either yet another attempt to ridicule the Salford Star or a genuine mistake. Either way the comment should be reomved.
Callum Leah wrote
at 12:34:23 on 04 March 2013
Oh How I just love this clap trap for Councillor Merrett. This is what happens when labour shoe in in experienced locals and then elevate them to the post of assistant mayor on a fat allowance. I for one am pleased that Merrett had admitted that rent convergence was the result of a previous LABOUR government as were the creation of tenancies for those who are "economically active" i.e in work thus depriving many on the waiting list of any chance of a home. This is also the idiot who showed tenants a report recently albeit in error which clearly shows that she and LAncaster have already made their mind up on the stock options in Central Salford and want to transfer the stock to Shitty West. God help us all with the ensuing debacle
Steven duke wrote
at 12:33:25 on 04 March 2013
Duplicitous and dishonest report
Billy Wemyss wrote
at 12:32:57 on 04 March 2013
Clowncillor Merritt's comments are libellous . Demand an apology , Salford Star . SUE THE CLOWN !
Winner of office anagram comp wrote
at 12:32:48 on 04 March 2013
Would not pay too much attention to the dribble Merrett spouts, an anagram of her name is "natter grime" in other words talk sh1t.
Tweet twoo wrote
at 09:23:28 on 04 March 2013
I notice labour councillors are keeping their distance from Merrett's comments on Twitter. Where is all the support you claim Gina?
Spin, Spin, Spin wrote
at 09:23:22 on 04 March 2013
I am sure this is just one of many politiclly motivated attacks on those who dare to voice their opinion against this council. I see them coming from all directions within the council under many guises but they will all becoming from the one central source, the top of the council. P.s Gina if you wish to comment on stories on the Star you can fill in the form at the bottom of the page, all comments appear on this site even those that attack the site, and even those comments from people like you who have no morals, principals, or backbone.
Unheard voter wrote
at 09:23:09 on 04 March 2013
Gina "one view" Merrett needs to assess her own standards before critising others, i posted a comment on her blog yesterday in reply to a post on the site and guess what, it's not appeared. But then why should she want to present the agrument of someone who is critical of her fan group, it's a bit like how she has a story titled "The Salford’s Star’s Reply" click on the story and she states she has recieived feedback from the star but does not publish the reply, WHY Gina are you afraid that the "facts" of your "story" will then be exposed and fall apart?
Do They Care? wrote
at 09:23:03 on 04 March 2013
Keep it up Salford Star Gena and the rest of her puppets are scared of any information that puts them in bad light. She wants to get on with her job in housing and sort out the mess Councillor Conner left behind-or should we just keep quite!
someone who cares wrote
at 07:38:28 on 04 March 2013
Gena Merret, Could I ask you to follow me in my job I work in Mental health, Our jobs are going out to tender I have not heared one of your team give us any support. Our Jobs at the moment are the bedroon tax and also people been kicked of the sick, Our Job is so hard watching people become really unwell please except and come and work with me. All the people are going to suffer while you all enjoy a good wage a nice home ect ect ect....
Bernard wrote
at 00:17:47 on 04 March 2013
Just shows how scared of the Salford Star these people are.
Gareth L wrote
at 00:17:41 on 04 March 2013
As a contributor to the Salford Star, I am disgusted by Gena Merrit's slurs. I call on her to prove her allegations. When she can not, as they are completely untrue, she should resign her position as an Assistant Mayor and Councillor. In all the articles I have written for the Salford Star I have never once made anything up and I have always researched stories and given opportunities for all sides to comment. I know that this is the ethos of the Editor and of the Star. It is amazing that in recent weeks there has been a number of bullying and bizarre comments and smears from the town hall. Has the Star got the Salford Labour Party so rattled by putting into the public domain truthful stories about what is happening in the city in relation to government, that Gena Merrit et al feel the need to peddle this rubbish. My next email will be to Ed Milliband. By the way the nasty left wing part which I pin my colours to is the Labour Party.
Salfordista wrote
at 00:17:36 on 04 March 2013
Love the supportive comment for Merrett from ex-Unison Branch Secretary Ray Walker on her blog: "Good to see a response to the Star’s often myopic view of Salford Council and what labour councillor’s are or indeed are not doing. It is a great shame that the owner of the Salford Star spend most of his time attacking the Council and not the ConDem goverment. Yes Labour Council’s could unite more as a voice against the cuts (and hopefully will do) but he attacks the messenger, not the writer of the message all too often." Thanks for nothing Ray. Salford Unison members would be even worse off if he was still Branch Sec
Chris P wrote
at 00:17:12 on 04 March 2013
Gina Merrett owes the Salford Star, and the community of Salford an apology. This is not the first time I've seen Labour Councillors refuse to engage in any form of reasonable dialogue with the communities they represent. This has become even more apparent with the cuts and the bedroom tax campaigns. They are destroying their own reputation with the voters that support them.
Doris Rogers wrote
at 00:17:04 on 04 March 2013
Peter Tully Snr wrote
at 00:16:54 on 04 March 2013
The same is happening here in Carmarthen, just type in Mark James on Google and get the info. It isnot just Salford Labour (ConDems?) that try to discredit the truth.
Ian O'Brien wrote
at 22:15:05 on 03 March 2013
How very odd this all is. In my experience "key supporters" of "extreme left-wing political" parties, aiming to smash the mainstream political system tend to be groups on the margins of society and without very much power or influence. And yet type into Google the search term 'Gena Merret, assistant mayor, salford - and the SIXTH result is this story. How odd. I have some understanding of the way Google delivers it's results and I can say for certain that extreme left wing political groups do not usually rank so highly in a search. The fact that this story, and this news outlet does can only mean one thing - that there are a lot of extremists out there. I would suggest that Ms Merrett go and do a little bit of reading around what being a member of a Labour party is supposed to mean. Perhaps start with Marx and Engels, and then move on from there. Thank you Salford Star for continuing to report factual and truthful news to the people of Salford.
Stella oneill wrote
at 22:15:01 on 03 March 2013
I'd like gena merrett a sorry excuse as a council worker! To tell me I'm lying about what my daughter will probably have to put up with in life as the council and the brilliant mayor have decided the disabled children of Salford don't need as much help as they've been getting?!. I'd love to see these people in our shoes as "normal" people with "normal" wages and manage to keep paying their bills without allowances off the council! get things their children need not want and stop moaning about what we as public have the right to think and say!!! Do your job Gena Merritt get on with it.
David lyons wrote
at 22:14:14 on 03 March 2013
Ms Merrett is not a socialist,if she was she would not be in the Labour party
Daisy wrote
at 21:58:23 on 03 March 2013
Unbelievable! Get her to PROVE these and provide you with evidence. These are very serious claims and must be challenged Also totally hypocritical when everyone knows how the Manchester Evening News does so much for the Labour Party!
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